ATLANTA (WSAV) – A new broadband partnership promises to bring high-speed internet to 80,000 homes and businesses in middle Georgia.

Gov. Brian Kemp, joined by other state leaders, announced Monday the partnership between the Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, Southern Rivers Energy and Conexon, which will benefit 18 counties come June.

The governor said the last year highlighted just how critical access to broadband is for health care, education and jobs — and simply keeping in touch with loved ones.

“For the past 10 months, we have learned about the importance of the internet,” Kemp said. “Whether at the doctor’s office or on Main Street, high-quality internet is important to each and every one of us.”

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During his State of the State address last month, Kemp announced the state was including $20 million for the fiscal year and $10 million per year moving forward to boost access to rural broadband grants.

The funds would allow local leaders to grow partnerships with the private sector and improve internet access for rural Georgia residents.

“This is an important step forward, but make no mistake, we’re just getting started,” Kemp said.

Central Georgia EMC is investing $135 million and Southern Rivers is investing $53 million, with each owning the infrastructure and also using it control their electric grids.

They will lease capacity to Conexon, which is investing $12.5 million and will offer accounts to customers.