Tag: "cooperatives"

Posted December 17, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

More and more electric cooperatives have been building broadband networks to bring better Internet access to their rural members. According to the cleverly titled podcast “Along Those Lines” from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), that trend isn’t stopping any time soon.

In the second episode of the podcast, host Scot Hoffman, editor of RE Magazine, speaks with guests Mike Keyser, CEO of BARC Electric Cooperative, and Brian O’Hara, regulatory issues director for NRECA. They discuss the growing interest in broadband among electric cooperatives, some of the hurdles co-ops must overcome when deploying networks, and the impact that better connectivity has on Rural America.

Highlights From Their Conversation

A few years ago, the field of cooperative broadband was populated only by the early adopters. Now, Keyser tells the podcast host, “It seems like we’re reaching this tide where everybody’s now talking about [broadband] at every conference we go to.” One of the reasons for this groundswell of enthusiasm, O’Hara explains, is the increasingly vital role of communications infrastructure in managing the electric grid. Cooperatives’ commitment to local economic development and their “strategic advantages” in deploying networks also plays a role, he says.

BARC Electric Cooperative is one of the dozens of co-ops that have built fiber networks to connect their members. In the podcast, Keyser relates how the co-op ultimately decided to move forward with BARC Connects despite challenges:

“We finally got to the point as a co-op where the board said, look, this is going to revitalize our community, this is our mission, this is what we did 80 years ago . . . We need to just go. This is too important to the community and to the co-op.”

Local residents are clearly excited about the new network. “The single biggest question I get asked everyday is ‘When is it coming to my house?’” shares Keyser. He even believes that revenue from the broadband network will one day outstrip the co-op's income from selling electricity, a testament to the community’s need for better connectivity.

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Posted June 7, 2018 by htrostle

Thanks to the Blandin on Broadband Blog for bringing this report to our attention.

The University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives published a report, “Cooperatives and Rural Broadband: A Selective Survey,” in January 2017 on the role of cooperatives in providing broadband service. A Rural Cooperative Development Grant from the USDA (awarded in 2015) funded the project. The report offers step-by-step advice on broadband projects and dives into the details of Wisconsin’s cooperatives.

Key Takeaways

Researchers explore a select number of telephone and electric cooperatives across the country in order to determine the key factors that drive these rural institutions to provide broadband. They then bring this framework to look directly at Wisconsin’s 11 telecommunications and 24 electric cooperatives. 

Instead of focusing on residential service, the Center for Cooperatives narrows in on business parks and the economic development potential of broadband. Their research shows that telecom cooperatives are bringing gigabit connectivity to businesses in the least-densely populated areas. 

Electric cooperatives are also considering how to meet the demand for high-quality connectivity. The report offers an overview of the many ways electric cooperatives have become involved, from supporting local coalitions to offering Internet service themselves. 

For More Info

Read through to the end: the Institute for Local Self-Reliance even gets a shout-out as a resource. Also check out our rural cooperatives page for our latest research. The whole report is available on the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives website.

Posted November 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

Rural communities across the United States are already building the Internet infrastructure of the future. Using a 20th century model, rural America is finding a way to tap into high-speed Internet service: electric and telephone cooperatives are bringing next-generation, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks to their service territories. This policy brief provides an overview of the work that cooperatives have already done, including a map of the cooperatives' fiber service territories. We also offer recommendations on ways to help cooperatives continue their important strides.

Download the policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era here.

Key Facts & Figures

Farmers first created utility cooperatives because large private companies did not recognize the importance of connecting rural America to electricity or telephone service. Now, these cooperatives are building fiber infrastructure.

Almost all of the 260 telephone cooperatives and 60 electric cooperatives are involved in fiber network projects. As of June 2016, 87 cooperatives offer residential gigabit service (1,000 Mbps) to their members.

Rural cooperatives rely on more than 100 years of experience. The cooperative approach does not stop with rolling out rural infrastructure, but ensures that their services remain viable and affordable. 

The majority of Montana and North Dakota already have FTTH Internet access, thanks to rural cooperatives. Even one of the poorest counties in the country (Jackson County, Kentucky) has FTTH through a telephone cooperative.

AT&T receives about $427 million each year in rural subsidies to bring Internet service to rural America, but AT&T does not invest in rural fiber networks

Moving Forward

Our policy recommendations offer an outline of how to build off of this work and further support rural cooperatives:

1. Design funding programs with cooperatives in mind. Recognize what requirements make sense for large organizations and what is unnecessary for cooperatives.

2. Activate membership based in existing cooperatives. Successful cooperative projects are community-led projects. About 70 percent of electric cooperatives...

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