For the first time, an electric cooperative in Arizona plans to develop fiber optic infrastructure in its service area in order to expand broadband availability. Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC) recently received a state grant to develop fiber optic infrastructure and expects to spend the next two years connecting residents and businesses for high-quality Internet access.
State Funding Efforts
Arizona's Rural Broadband Development Grant Program, which awards up to $1 million for shovel-ready projects, will provide funding to MEC for infrastructure deployment. Two other grants went to private sector providers for a middle mile project and for a Fiber-to-the-Business project. The co-op's network will enable symmetrical connections of up to 10 gigabits.
The region is in the far west-central area of the state where Arizona meets the tip of Nevada and California, not far from the Mojave National Preserve and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. MEC will build out their network to around 35,000 premises in Bullhead City, Fort Mohave, and Mohave Valley.
In addition to the development grants, Arizona awarded four planning grants to local governments of fewer than 150,000 (municipalities) or 750,000 (counties). One of the grants went to Gila County, which has been working on their Broadband Master Plan. Native American Tribes and nonprofits were also eligible.
Back in October 2019, the Bullhead City Council passed a resolution to support the cooperative's plan to develop the project. Community leaders responded to the results of the MEC survey in which 95 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted broadband from the co-op.
Mayor Tom Brady noted that his office often received complaints about incumbents Suddenlink and Frontier. At the time, MEC said that the cooperative plan includes service to 100 percent of its service area, but officials from MEC stated that the ability to obtain funding would determine their ability to implement the plan.
“It’s wonderful our members are excited about this project, but we need to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves,” said Tyler Carlson, CEO of MEC. “Although the board of directors has voted to move forward, there are still many steps left in the process before the service is available.
“We are moving forward, but completing this effort is contingent on finding the necessary funding.”
MEC plans to partner with TransWorld Network (TWN) Communications , an ISP that partners with electric cooperatives, providing Internet access, voice services, and fixed wireless services via co-op infrastructure.
“The communities served by Mohave Electric have been underserved for reliable, true broadband service for too long,” said Colin Wood, CEO of TWN Communications. “We are excited to help them fill that gap and bring service to their members.”