Tag: "cooperative"

Posted July 9, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

In as little as 18 months, the newly formed Pacific Rural Gas Cooperative (PRGC) plans to deliver natural gas and broadband to Spring Creek, Nevada, and to neighboring Lamoille shortly after.

Broadband Needed in Rural Nevada

Nestled at the base of the Ruby Mountains in northeastern Nevada, Spring Creek is a small town of about 12,300 people that originally formed in the 1970s as three large housing sections. The municipality mainly serves as a bedroom community for businesses and industries in the nearby City of Elko. The economy is mostly based on gold mining, with limited ranching, tourism, and manufacturing also providing jobs. Former Nevada governor, Jim Gibbons, who now owns a 40-acre ranch in Lamoille and Tariq Ahmad of Satview Broadband Ltd. founded the co-op in order to serve the 57-square-mile-area in Elko County where those services still do not exist.

Nevada prohibits municipalities with populations greater than 25,000 and counties greater than 50,000 from offering telecommunications services, but small municipalities and co-ops have been stepping up to provide broadband to rural areas. Last year, Churchill County Communications (CC Communications) began partnering with the Valley Communications Association of Pahrump (VCA) and Switch technology to bring fiber to rural areas of southern Nevada along US Highway 95. 

Despite the recent progress in other areas of the state, Spring Creek and Lamoille still need the services PRGC can bring to their communities. Like many other rural communities, large national ISPs have resisted investing in infrastructure needed to offer high-quality connectivity.

While JAB Wireless advertises broadband in the area, the company only provides terrestrial fixed wireless, a service often requires line of sight access between a ground station and subscriber. Beehive Telephone Companies, the only other provider of broadband in the area, brings Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to less than one percent of census blocks in Spring Creek and Lamoille.

Frontier Communications Corporation, the designated Telephone Exchange Area provider, offers Internet access, but no broadband, defined by the FCC as services with a...

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Posted July 2, 2018 by htrostle

Recently, PCMag rated North Dakota and South Dakota as two states with some of the fastest connectivity in the U.S. Rural cooperatives have brought high-quality connectivity to this region of the country and, when sifting through our archives, we realized that we haven't given South Dakota cooperatives the coverage they deserve.

Venture Communications Cooperative connects more than 30 communities in central South Dakota with some of the fastest Internet service in the U.S. South Dakota cooperatives have taken advantage of government loans and grants in order to bring much-needed Internet access to their rural members. With federal stimulus money, Venture Communications began building an extensive Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in 2011.

Fiber Fast

Only 25 percent of the U.S. population has access to FTTH, a leading technology that can provide Internet service faster than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Venture Communications offers a Gigabit to some of the most rural residents in South Dakota. The co-op is only one of two companies in South Dakota to be Gigabit certified by the NTCA Rural Broadband Coalition.

Venture Communications Speed Tiers

...
Download/Upload Speed Price
50 Mbps $63.95
100 Mbps $70.95
250 Mbps $80.95
500 Mbps
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Posted June 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

The State of Colorado has made some changes in the past few years that are improving broadband deployment, especially in rural areas. In this episode of the podcast, Christopher talks about some of those changes with Tony Neal-Graves, Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office. While Christopher was in Vail at the Mountain Connect event, he and Tony sat down to have a conversation about broadband and deployment in Colorado.

In addition to discussing his shift from the private to public sector, Tony gets into changes in state law, including last session’s adjustments to Colorado’s right of first refusal. Tony describes what kinds of conversations he's had with local communities and acknowledges that Colorado communities are especially good at working together to solve connectivity issues. Chris and Tony also talk about the growing role of cooperatives and state versus FCC data collection. In addition to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which helps fund local broadband deployment, Colorado seems to be making some smart moves that keep raising the bar on how to fast-track smart broadband deployment.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Read the transcript for this show here....

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Posted June 26, 2018 by Hannah Rank

When you’re an island, literally, and want better options for your Internet access, you have to get creative. In the case of Rock Island Communications on the San Juan Islands, the choice was clear: establish your own ISP. 

The San Juan Islands cluster in the most northwest tip of Washington state, off the coast of the cities of Bellingham and Anacortes, and just spitting distance from the Canadian border. Hitching a ride on a ferry boat is the only way to access this remote but beautiful chain. A little more than a third of the residents of the 20 islands are seasonal, and the islands’ median age is 55 years old, according to Rock Island Communications. Visitors and residents alike experience the rough weather, thick Douglas fir overgrowth, and rocky terrain one would expect from the Pacific Northwest coast. These environs make for beautiful vistas - the islands are considered a vacation destination - but less than ideal conditions for high speed Internet access.

“After the Cable Broke” 

Rock Island Communications is a wholly owned subsidiary of the San Juan County-based electric co-op Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO). Rock Island Communications started as Rock Island, a local ISP with around 12 percent of the market share. OPALCO bought the small ISP in 2015, and the private venture has just entered its third year of expanding construction and operating both Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fixed LTE Wireless services. The wireless service, for more remote subscribers, is run in a partnership with T-Mobile and involves sharing infrastructure and splitting costs. By the company’s own estimates, Rock Island now retains nearly 40 percent of the market share, with a 2:1 ratio of wireless to FTTH subscribers. The ISP expects to have a positive cash-flow by the end of this year.

But how does a locally-owned and run telecommunications contender...

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Posted June 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

On June 18th, PCMag came out with its list of “The Fastest ISPs of 2018.” The analysis looks at ISP performance in several different ways and provides a range of different side-by-side comparisons. The results prove that publicly owned infrastructure has in important role in bringing high-quality Internet access to Americans.

The Dakotas' Co-ops Rock

When taking a wide angle lens view of the fastest U.S. states results, we noticed that two of the top four states with the fastest ISPs were North Dakota and South Dakota. Rural cooperatives in these two states have excelled at deploying high-quality Internet access via fiber optic infrastructure. As a result, North Dakota and South Dakota has some of the most complete coverage of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access and gigabit FTTH in the country. Notice all the coverage on our cooperative map:

small-2018-06-Cooperative-Gigabit-Fiber-Map-Update.jpg

Check out a larger map here.

Like rural electrification in the 1930s, cooperatives are taking on the task of bringing high-speed Internet service to members in rural areas. They live and work in the areas they serve. Big ISPs don’t consider sparsely populated areas suitable investment opportunities, so electric and telephone co-ops are repeating the approach of the 1930s, but this time with fiber networks. Dickey Rural Telephone Cooperative in North Dakota and Venture Communications Cooperative in South Dakota are only a few that have worked to get their members connected.

To learn more about how rural cooperatives have helped rural communities, including North Dakota and South Dakota, check out our policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era. We also had an interesting conversation during...

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Posted June 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

Minnesota’s RS Fiber Cooperative has brought gigabit connectivity to households and businesses in small, rural towns in Renville and Sibley Counties. Within the next few years, they plan to transition households beyond towns from their wireless access as they expand their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) footprint. A recent MinnPost article features how the network has attracted a different kind of venture to one of the small member towns — a 3D printing business.

Gibbon, Minnesota (pop. 750), is known for quiet streets, rather than the shiny futuristic landscapes one associates with high-tech entrepreneurs. The community, however, was exactly what Adam Stegeman was looking for when searching for a place to set up shop. He had been selling 3D printers for years and was ready to strike out on his own. The Stegeman Family wanted a small-town environment and, since much of Adam’s work requires transfer of data intensive 3D design files, a community that also had access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity was a must. As one of the RS Fiber Co-op member towns, Gibbon met both requirements.

When MinnPost asked Stegeman about the presence of the network in Gibbon and its influence on his decision to settle there: “That was absolutely huge,” Stegeman said.

The Fabric of the Community

As we covered in our report, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative, more than 20 communities joined together to establish the broadband cooperative. Community leaders faced challenges along the way, but they pursued their vision. Through a strong sense of regional collaboration and a creative approach, the cooperative now offers better connectivity than is available in many urban areas. They’ve completed phase one, which connects each of the towns with FTTH and provides high-speed fixed wireless Internet access to premises in the extremely rural areas, such as the many local farms. Phase two should begin within the next two years.

Since publishing the report, the cooperative has attracted attention...

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Posted June 20, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Consolidated Cooperative (CC) of Delaware, Ohio, plans to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services to rural central Ohio residents as soon as this summer.

Multi-Service, Multi-Community

In March, CC announced it had changed its name from Consolidated Electric Cooperative to better reflect the organization's expansion of services. In addition to electric service, CC also provides natural gas, propane, community solar, and soon they will offer residential fiber optic connectivity. CC’s board came to the decision to offer fiber after a host of members said they needed a solution for their current underwhelming Internet access and incentives to keep businesses buzzing in their area.

CC has served rural and farming communities north of Columbus since the 1930s. It currently provides electric in Delaware and Morrow counties, as well as slices of six other surrounding counties. It also provides some fiber access to area school districts and businesses through its brand Enlite, partially by harnessing CC’s electric infrastructure

Last October in a Facebook post, CC cited a member survey wherein “many members in our serving area report insufficient access to reliable Internet service.” The co-op says it's broken ground on constructing its new fiber network earlier this spring, and will begin offering services sometime in June for select high-need clients in western Delaware County. Consolidated Fiber offers an interactive map of the anticipated coverage zone, with color coding that indicates the status of each area. 

Gauging the Scope of Interest

CC decided to roll out Consolidated Fiber as a pilot project starting this summer. From there, it says its construction priorities for access to the fiber service is demand-based, and so the cooperative is...

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Posted June 12, 2018 by htrostle

Rural broadband policy can be hard to explain. That’s why we made this fact sheet. It explains how rural America can have high-speed Internet service without breaking the bank. Give this to your neighbors, to your co-op board members, city council members, county officials, or state legislators.

Download the fact sheet.

Quick Answers to Common Questions

This fact sheet is full of information that answers common questions, such as: What is broadband? What is Fiber-to-the-Home? Who doesn’t have access? How much money does the government spend to improve Internet infrastructure? What can we do today?

The fact sheet also explains the role of cooperatives and municipal networks in bringing high-speed Internet service to rural communities. About 60 electric cooperatives and more than 200 telephone cooperatives have fiber projects. Many small towns have also built their own networks. Explore more on our Community Network Map.

Take Action

Host a screening of the “Do Not Pass Go” video to educate your friends and neighbors on these issues. We’ve made a guide on how to host a screening and generate conversation in your community.

Create a local group to discuss Internet access: Why does your town need high-speed Internet service? What resources do you have? How much funding do you need? Sometimes the data doesn’t match reality. It’s up to your community to find a way to get the connectivity you need.

More Resources

If you liked this fact sheet, check out our other fact sheets here. Learn about municipal networks, net neutrality, and more. We also write daily stories and highlight in-depth reports. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on...

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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 May 23, 2018 by lgonzalez

Holston Electric Cooperative (HEC) in Hamblen and Hawkins County, Tennessee, is about to begin Phase I of its plan to deploy fiber optic connectivity to more than 30,000 members. The multi-year project will bring broadband to the rural area and create smart grid efficiencies for the electric system.

Wide Support for HolstonConnect

There’s been so much interest and so many inquiries about when members can sign-up, General Manager Jimmy Sandlin feels it’s important to ask folks in the service area to be patient and to understand that the build will be a long process. Construction will begin in Rogersville and will extend to South Surgoinsville.

“As HolstonConnect’s services will have less delay times than other products available in your market, the competition may encourage our members to lock themselves into new contracts. Be aware of this tactic, as this is your opportunity to help improve your neighborhood. Owned by the people served, HolstonConnect will connect our community to a great future, just like Holston Electric Cooperative brought rural residents into the future with electricity.”

Prices and a complete list of services have not been posted yet, but the cooperative plans to offer symmetrical gigabit service, voice, and video. In keeping with similar policies from other publicly owned networks, HEC has said there will be no throttling or data caps. 

HEC has had plans in place for a while to deploy a smart grid to improve electric systems. As is the case with many other electric cooperatives, HEC decided to consider taking advantage of the infrastructure’s excess capacity as a foundation for fiber optic connectivity for local residents and businesses. In order to make the venture successful, however, they knew that they would need take rates of around 80 percent from members to make the project viable. The cooperative still needs to determine final estimates, but the initial figure for the entire project comes in at around $120 million.

In early 2017, HEC reached out to members, holding several meetings to gauge interest. Local residents packed the events and the average of pledges to sign up for service averaged around 90 percent of attendees. A survey indicated that 60 percent of those asked would pay...

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