Last August, Pineland Telephone and Jefferson Energy Cooperatives in Georgia began developing a project together to bring fiber connectivity to businesses in the small towns of Louisville (pop. 2,200) and Wrens (pop. 2,000). This February, the partners finished construction and celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event marked marked another instance in which cooperatives are working together to improve connectivity in rural areas.
The project began in Louisville last summer when the cooperatives realized they could team up to reduce costs and improve Internet access for businesses in Jefferson County. In a July 2018 press release, Pineland Telephone commented:
“Rural America lacking the broadband service needed to compete globally is on everyone’s radar, with Georgia and national legislation being considered so that improvements can be developed. Instead of waiting on funding and policies that may not come, cooperatives working together determined a way to make advancements in the communities in which they serve.”
Pineland’s Dustin Durden told the Augusta Chronicle that both cooperatives deployed fiber simultaneously. Jefferson Energy worked on construction between Bartow and the Louisville area, which were then connected to Wrens, while Pineland began with fiber within the town of Louisville and then worked within Wrens. Working together, they were able to finish the project in about 18 months.
As Durden explains in this Facebook video, Pineland, Jefferson, and the city of Louisville are using the infrastructure to make free Wi-Fi available in the community’s downtown park:
Fiber for Electric Efficiencies and Expansion
Jefferson Energy sees several uses for the new infrastructure:
“It’s helping us with our communications efficiencies and we’re going to utilize that fiber in the future for what we call distribution automation,” Dillard said. “It will improve our efficiencies and our responsiveness to outages or power quality and improve our service.
“This was just the first step. We were acting as the bridge from their service territory to our territory. Now we’ve got them here and hopefully now we can work with Pineland to further expand in the future.”
Earlier this year, we wrote about Pineland’s project in Americus to deploy fiber for commercial subscribers in the Sumter County town of about 17,000 people. Pineland invested about $2 million into the project along with contributions from local donors. One Sumter Economic Development Foundation facilitated the project.
We’ve seen an increase in telephone and electric co-op partnerships for broadband recently. Notably, communications cooperative RiverStreet Networks has entered into a partnership with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives as a way to expand high-quality Internet access to rural communities across the state. Collaboration makes sense: electric cooperatives often have the ability to manage and expand the infrastructure while telephone and communications cooperatives have the personnel and expertise in broadband.
Learn more about the ways cooperatives are filling the connectivity voids in the U.S. in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.