Consolidated Electric Cooperative, a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative, will soon offer gigabit broadband in rural North Central Ohio. They intend to first offer the gigabit to local schools and then to businesses.
According to eSchoolNews, Consolidated Electric Cooperative will provide 15 school districts with gigabit connectivity. The school districts will then have greater access to online resources and be better able to comply with mandated online testing in Ohio. In the article, Doug Payauys, vice-president of information systems for Consolidated Electric Cooperative, described the need for improved Internet access in schools:
"Technology is creating a shift in today’s classroom, and it’s transforming the way teachers educate and students learn. As the country becomes a more digital-based society, schools must work to transform lesson plans and accommodate new technologies”
The gigabit broadband will also improve the Wi-Fi in the school districts, providing more bandwidth for wireless learning devices. Wireless connections almost always depend on wireline backhaul to ensure each access point does not have a bottleneck between the user and the larger Internet. With better Wi-Fi, the schools hope to support an online curriculum for students to learn at their own pace.
Consolidated Electric Cooperative also intends to offer the gigabit connectivity to local businesses. They already offer some broadband connections to businesses through their Enlite Fiber Optic Network. They first began to develop this network in 2010 with some costs covered through the Broadband Initiatives Program created by the stimulus effort. Since then, they have expanded the network which now consists of 200 miles of fiber optic cable from Columbus to Mansfield, spanning five rural counties in North Central Ohio.
They currently do not offer residential fiber, focusing instead on providing a middle mile connectivity to governments, schools and businesses. They are, however, prepared to adapt to support residential services in the future:
Payauys noted that the network has been designed to enable Consolidated to easily deploy residential broadband if the company were to choose to do so at a future time. And already some other network operators – including three wireless Internet service providers – have stepped up to offer residential broadband using the Consolidated network for aggregation and Internet connectivity.
Consolidated Electric Cooperative expects about a four-year payback on the network and appears ready to continue expanding broadband access in rural Ohio.