Electric cooperatives are bringing high-speed Internet service throughout northeast Oklahoma. In 2014, Bolt Fiber, a subsidiary of Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, started building a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network throughout their service area. Now, slightly to the south, Lake Region Electric Cooperative is planning to expand their FTTH network.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative is about to begin another phase of construction on their FTTH network in the area around Tahlequah, Oklahoma, capital of the Cherokee Nation. The subsidiary or the electric co-op, Lake Region Technology and Communications, is managing the project.
Expanding Reliable, Rural Internet Service
In late 2014, the co-op began two pilot projects for FTTH service. After the success of those projects, the co-op decided to expand. They have divided their service area into 11 zones and are seeking sign-ups. The co-op will expand the FTTH network to the zones where the most people pre-register. The network provides high-speed Internet access, HD video, and high-quality phone service.
The electric co-op requests a $50 deposit with pre-registration, but will waive the $250 installation fee with a pre-registration. If someone signs up after construction starts, they pay a reduced installation fee. Residents and businesses who decide to sign up for services after the network is up and running in their zone will pay the full installation fee. The co-op might also charge a line extension fee depending on the distance from the existing fiber line.
Rates are still subject to change, but the co-op's website suggests Internet access will be symmetrical, offering the same speeds on the upload and download, starting at $49.95 per month for 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for residential customers. Business Internet access will start at $99.95 per month for 50 Mbps. Both include a free Wi-Fi router.
More than 700 members are already online. Lake Region Electric Cooperative serves the communities around the city of Tahlequah. With this project, the electric co-op hopes to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas. In a September 2014 newsletter, one of the pilot project customers expressed enthusiasm at having fiber:
“I am extremely pleased with my Internet service! It’s been very exciting to have high speed reliable Internet so far out of town, and at such an affordable rate!!”
The electric cooperative expects the build out to most of their service area to take two to three years. A previous survey noted that 83 percent of the electric co-op’s members believe that it’s important for the co-op to offer this service. And 75 percent support the electric co-op getting into the business. In a March 2016 Tahlequah Daily article, Hamid Vahdatipour, CEO of the Lake Region Electric Cooperative, talked about the positive response to the FTTH network:
“Some of them have switched to us and say they don’t ever want to go back to anyone else, or that they didn’t know how much they really needed Internet [until they signed up].”