Tag: "cooperative"

Posted August 10, 2017 by htrostle

Electric cooperatives have the potential to build next-generation networks to provide high-speed Internet service, and they are stepping up to the plate. In episode 26 of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Nick Stumo-Langer sits down with Christopher Mitchell and Hannah Trostle to discuss how electric cooperatives are improving Internet access in rural communities. 

From Washington to Missouri, many rural folks already have high-speed Internet service through cooperatives. Hannah describes how the cooperatives did that, and then Christopher dives into some of the barriers to local investment. Check out a summary of their research on the resource page Cooperatives Build Community Networks -updated monthly. 

This conversation also builds on Building Local Power podcast episode 12 with Karlee Wienmann. Hannah and Karlee discuss how cooperatives work on both Internet access and renewable energy. That episode is available at ILSR.org along with all the other Building Local Power podcast episodes.

Listen to Nick, Hannah, and Christopher in episode 26, Connecting Rural America: Internet Access for All.  

 

Posted August 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

Vernon Communications Cooperative (VC Co-op), serving much of rural Vernon County, Wisconsin, was recently named a Certified Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. VC Co-op joins a growing list of rural cooperatives that are offering gigabit connectivity to members in places where national Internet service providers don’t want to invest in infrastructure. The certification requires that "gigabit technology is currently commercially available within 95 percent of one or more exchanges within [the provider's] serving territory and that such service can be provided without new trenching or stringing new aerial facilities."

Why Do Co-ops Always Start? To Fill A Need

VC Co-op started as a telephone cooperative in 1951 when local farmers collaborated, obtained funding from the Rural Electrification Act, and formed the Vernon Telephone Cooperative. After partnering with other telephone companies in the region to establish Internet service in the early 1990s, VC Co-op also began offering long distance voice and television services in 2001.

VC Co-op has also made a name for themselves by offering twelve community television channels that broadcast various local events, including school sports and concerts, local weather, and even radio shows.

By 2008, VC Co-op had finished upgrading their network in the county seat of Viroqua (pop. 4,400), replacing copper lines with fiber. Viroqua has taken advantage of the fiber in ways that touch almost all aspects of daily life. In addition to public safety, healthcare, and education, local businesses using fiber connectivity have been able to grow beyond the limits of Viroqua. All the while, the VC Co-op has served the community with the same spirit we see from other cooperatives.

logo-organic-valley.jpeg Organic Valley, a farmers cooperative with headquarters in Vernon County, suffered a catastrophic fire in 2013. Without missing a beat, VC Co-op connected 21 temporary locations to house Organic Valley employees and established a connection for the farmers cooperative in another building.

VC Co-op is in the... Read more

Posted July 28, 2017 by htrostle

Just south of Mount San Jacinto in southern California, several small communities hope for better Internet access. The local cooperative has submitted a plan to build a next generation network fiber network further into Riverside County.

Anza Electric Cooperative wants to expand its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network through another 200 square miles of its service territory. This $3.7 million project should connect another 1,200 residents to the growing network.

New Project Proposed by Anza Electric

Currently, Anza Electric is drumming up funding for the proposed project. The co-op already has about $1.5 million to put toward the venture and is now requesting a $2.2 million grant from the state.

This network, called Connect Anza, will bring high-speed Internet service to several small, rural communities in Riverside County: Pinyon Pines, Garner Valley, and Mountain Center. High-speed Internet service of 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) will be $49 per month; service is symmetrical so upload and download speeds are the same. Residents will also be able to get phone service from the co-op for another $20 per month. Local fire stations and the Ronald McDonald camp for children with cancer will receive free Internet access through this project. 

connect anza second phase map

Anza Electric Built a Network

The deployment continues Anza Electric’s previous project to connect more than 3,000 underserved households around Anza, California. The previous project was pushed forward by the overwhelming support of the electric cooperative’s member-owners, residents who receive electric service from the co-op.

Anza Electric first started adding fiber optic lines for electricity management in July 2015. Later that year, at the annual cooperative meeting, more than 90% of members present voted to include fiber optics and high-speed Internet service in the cooperative’s bylaws. The vote encouraged the cooperative to continue to build fiber optic lines.

In December 2015, the state of California approved... Read more

Posted July 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Like other states with significant rural populations, local communities in Indiana have been working to come up with ways to improve connectivity for residents and businesses. Two more areas in Indiana can expect better connectivity as county government invests for economic development and a rural electric co-op decides its time to offer Internet access to members.

Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

In the south central section of the state, Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) serves members in ten counties. Their members don’t live in areas in and around the larger towns in the region because most of those premises already had electric service when REMC obtained a federal loan to electrify the area in 1937. Their service area covers about 1,400 square miles and they serve 24,200 members.

In June, the cooperative announced that it had approved a five-year plan to provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to every member in its service area. In their press release, REMC compared the project to rural electrification, which launched the cooperative, and wrote: 

Several factors were taken into consideration: enhancing the quality of life for members, agricultural and agribusiness needs, providing an enhanced path for education and healthcare opportunities, keeping our communities economically viable, and developing a plan where no REMC member is eft out. All of these facts fall under Cooperative Principle #7: Concern for Community.

A Big Project

REMC will invest approximately $5.43 million for the project’s first phase; the entire project will cost $20 million in Jackson County alone. The investment for REMC’s entire service area will be $60 million. Co-op officials estimate the project will be cash positive in three years and will be completely paid for in 16 years.

In June, Jackson County Council unanimously approved a tax abatement for the cost of phase 1, which establishes the backbone for the system and snakes through most of the counties in REMC’s service area. Phase 1 will also include an opportunity to test the network by connecting approximately 990 members in order to work out problems before offering services to members across the entire network.

... Read more

Posted July 18, 2017 by lgonzalez

As if bringing high-quality connectivity to rural central Minnesota wasn’t enough, RS Fiber Cooperative has recently established the “Cornerstone Member” program. Now that gigabit connectivity is available, existing residential customers can upgrade from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) with no price increase. As long as they continue service uninterrupted through 2017, they offer stands.

General Manager Toby Brummer:

“We wanted to do something for those customers who made that early commitment to RS Fiber. We thought they should be recognized in some special way for their loyalty and support of the cooperative. Future Internet applications will likely require higher speeds and this will set our customers up for broadband success for the foreseeable future.”

It's What They Do

The upgrade to gigabit connectivity for existing subscribers with no increase in price follows the same pattern we’ve seen from other publicly owned networks. Recently, we presented detailed data from municipal networks in Tennessee that showed how rates have changed very little over decades, even though speeds have consistently increased.

Vermont’s ECFiber also recently announced a speed increase at no extra charged for subscribers. They also plan another increase in 2018.

RS Fiber Cooperative has been connecting towns and rural areas in Sibley and Renville County. For more about the cooperative, check out our 2016 case study, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative. The last four communities to receive services will be connected later in 2017.

Posted July 17, 2017 by htrostle

 

 

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Posted July 17, 2017 by htrostle

Throughout the country, telephone and electric cooperatives have found ways to bring affordable, high-speed Internet service to rural residents. This resource page is a one-stop shop for facts and figures on cooperatives and thier role in offering high-speed Internet service. 

From Alabama to Oregon, cooperatives have taken on the challenge of bringing fast, affordable, reliable, connectivity to rural America. This page highlights model projects and discusses what state governments can do to support cooperatives' efforts to connect rural America.

We feature electric cooperative fiber optic projects, cooperatives offering gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service, and the first Internet cooperative - RS Fiber in Minnesota. As of July 2017, almost 90 cooperatives offer gigabit service to their members, and more than 50 electric cooperatives have programs or projects to improve connectivity.

Check out all the information, including several of our podcasts and videos, on our cooperatives resource page.

Suggestions, comments, or questions? Drop H. Trostle an email at htrostle@ilsr.org.

 

Image of the barn courtesy of backituptech on pixaby.

Posted July 5, 2017 by christopher

This is the central hub for ILSR’s research on Internet access around the Appalachian United States. We have compiled federal statistics on broadband availability and federal subsidies for large Internet Service Providers. We've created detailed maps of 150 counties in Kentucky, Southeast Ohio, and northern West Virginia.

We've also created Rural Toolkits for Kentucky, Southeast Ohio, and northern West Virginia. These toolkits offer a big picture look at connectivity on a regional and statewide level.  They also provide action steps for folks to learn more and get involved.

Remember these three key details when reading through this information:

Internet access: if you can get online, check email, and browse the web.

Broadband: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently defines this as speed of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. 

Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH): a high-speed fiber-optic connection directly to the home. This type of technology can support speeds of more than 1,000 Megabit-per-second (Mbps).

Appalachia can get better Internet service, but the big companies aren’t going to do it. Cooperatives and small towns are stepping up and delivering world-class Internet service.

Kentucky

kentucky toolkit imageThis information covers the entirety of the state – all 120 counties.

Rural Toolkit: This toolkit provides the basics of how to get started. From what is broadband to the details of federal funding, this toolkit has got you covered. At the back, it includes a statewide fact sheet, which is also available separately.

Statewide Fact Sheet: Did you know that three Internet Service Providers get more than $327 million to spend on rural Kentucky? Did you know that they aren’t required to build high-speed networks offering broadband?

Information for each county in the state can be found in this Dropbox folder. Each county map outlines where there is any form of Internet... Read more

Posted July 4, 2017 by htrostle

On the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, an electric cooperative looks to a more connected future. The Tri-County Electric Cooperative that operates across state lines is preparing to build a state-of-the-art network for high-speed Internet service throughout Trousdale County, Tennessee. This will be the first year of construction for the cooperative after several years of planning.

Tri-County Electric plans to soon begin services to Trousdale County, the smallest county in Tennessee. Many of the county's 8,000 residents' choice is limited to Comcast and AT&T, and Tri-County Electric's Vice-President and General Manager Paul Thompson noted that people in the county often only subscribe to about 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. With a steady membership base of 50,000 spread across two states and a close relationship with the county, the electric co-op is in a good position to move forward with the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. The cooperative intends to offer an affordable base package that provides faster, more reliable connectivity than what the incumbents are willing to offer the rural communities.

Funding From The Feds

Since 2014, Tri-County Electric Cooperative has actively pursued financing for a FTTH network in the county. The co-op applied for a grant through the Rural Broadband Experiments program managed by the Federal Communications Commission. They did not receive any funding, but the process resulted in a tangible plan.

The process of applying for the grant built up community support for the project and enabled the co-op to identify key assets. As part of the grant application, they noted which census blocks they expected to connect and what community anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries, and government buildings, could be included. The Trousdale County government even passed a resolution giving explicit permission for Tri-County Electric to build and operate a FTTH network. 

Although Tri-County Electric Cooperative did not receive that grant, the co-op continued to pursue different avenues for funding. This year, the co-op received a... Read more

Posted June 10, 2017 by lgonzalez

Lac qui Parle County in western Minnesota has some of the best connectivity in the state. As part of the county’s efforts to get the word out about opportunities in the region, their new Facebook video highlights access to great Internet access and hopes to draw more citizens to the region.

"Come for the Jobs. Stay for the Lifestyle"

Pam Ellison, Economic Development Director for the County, describes the network that is available across the county to businesses and residents. High-quality Internet access is a way to retain businesses, attract new endeavors, and entice people to fill new positions.

Back in 2009, the county began working with Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative to find a way to improve Internet access. Through their collaboration, the two entities received a 2010 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity and replace antiquated dial-up. At the time, about 52 percent of premises were still using their telephones to connect to the Internet.

Lac qui Parle had approached incumbent providers, but none were interested in upgrading in the sparsely populated region. Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative had deployed in other communities in western Minnesota and had the experience required in such a rural area. The project’s $9.6 million ARRA combined grant and loan allowed the project to be completed by the summer of 2014. Read more details about the network and the story in Lac qui Parle County in our 2014 report, All Hands on Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access.

Check out Lac qui Parle County’s video:

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