Tag: "cooperative"

Posted September 19, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

South Dakota has more cows than people — and if you live in a rural community outside of the state, it’s possible that all those bovines may have better Internet access than you do.

South Dakota Dashboard recently released a report on rural Internet access in the state. It was commissioned by the South Dakota Telecommunications Association (SDTA), whose members include cooperative, municipal, and tribal providers. The report, Connecting South Dakota’s Future: A Report on the Deployment & Impact of Rural Broadband, found that rural connectivity in the state significantly exceeds national averages, proving that high-quality Internet access is possible even in the most rural areas.

Download the report for more details.

Summary of Findings

According to the report, more than three quarters of rural South Dakotans who subscribe to Internet access from SDTA members have access to speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, which are the federal minimums for broadband. Across the country, approximately 61 percent of rural residents have access to those speeds.

Furthermore, 65 percent of people who subscribe to Internet access from SDTA members receive service through Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP). In contrast, only around 40 percent of rural telecommunications company subscribers nationwide are connected via fast and reliable fiber optic lines.

This is all despite the fact that, with fewer than five residents per square mile, deploying fiber costs on average $3,571 per resident in the rural regions served by SDTA members versus about $26 per resident in the more densely populated Sioux Falls.

Fast Internet Speeds Nothing New for South Dakota

In June of this year, we reported on PCMag’s annual ranking of the fastest Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country, which chose South Dakota as the state with the second...

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Posted September 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

A year ago, we last had Jonathan Chambers of Conexon on the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of the Connect America Fund. Since then, the FCC has held an auction to expand connectivity in rural areas as part of the Connect America Fund Phase II (Auction 903) and recently released news of the winning bidders. In episode 321 of the podcast, he’s back for another conversation on the process and the results.

In addition to a brief history on the Connect America Fund, Jonathan and Christopher spend some time discussing the arguments for and against federal funding dedicated to rural deployment. Do ISPs really want to serve residents and businesses in rural areas? Based on the results of the auction, the answer is yes.

As Jonathan notes, this year’s bidding process has been more transparent in years past, but in order for the program to be a true success, there also needs to be accountability. Christopher and Jonathan also discuss the results from this auction and the strong showing that rural electric cooperatives made in the auction. They talk about some of the technological challenges that may arise for some of the bidding firms that promised results that may be beyond their capabilities. Christopher and Jonathan also discuss some of the areas of the country where firms receiving Connect America Funds will deploy.

You can view lists of bid winners and the news release about the auction at the FCC website. There are also maps available at the FCC, to offer visual representations of areas to receive infrastructure, along with eligible areas, and related documents.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 51 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....

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Posted August 28, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

There may be one famous Orange County already — the one in California is home to Laguna Beach, Disneyland, and The Real Housewives — but Orange County, Indiana, will soon be making a name for itself with world-class connectivity thanks to the local electric cooperative.

After a few years of planning, Orange County REMC is moving ahead with the construction of a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that will bring premium Internet and telephone services to its members and other nearby residents. Construction on the main fiber ring begins this fall with services starting as early as next year.

The Seventh Cooperative Principle

In Orange County, the co-op’s main service territory, about half of the county’s 9,000 residents do not have access to 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) wired Internet access.

To address this, Orange County REMC began exploring ways to provide fast, reliable connectivity to its members in 2015. Two surveys and a feasibility study confirmed that a fiber project would be financially possible for the co-op and that it would garner sufficient interest from residents, while also improving management of the electric grid. “Based on the second survey, 85 percent of Orange County REMC members stated they would take our service if it were offered,” Matt Deaton, the co-op’s General Manager and CEO, told Hoosier Energy.

Because of the strong community support and the benefits for local businesses and residents, the Orange County REMC Board of Directors approved the FTTH project, Orange County Fiber, in May 2018.

In a recent edition of the Electric Consumer, published by Indiana electric co-ops, Deaton explained:

“All of these factors are found under the seventh cooperative principle ­— concern for community...This was a major decision to expand the services we provide to prepare us to meet the current and future needs of our members.”

Orange County Fiber

The finished fiber network will serve 14,000 people, primarily in Orange County, but also in parts of Crawford, Davies, Lawrence, and...

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Posted August 9, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Great Lakes Energy (GLE), Michigan’s largest electric cooperative and third largest energy utility, is constructing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to bring gigabit connectivity to its 125,000 members. Construction in the project’s pilot area is underway. Eligible members may be able to subscribe to services from the co-op’s subsidiary Truestream as soon as the end of the year.

Truestream Off to A Quick Start

GLE shared on its website that the co-op decided to build the Truestream network because members expressed a need for better connectivity in rural Michigan.

At the end of 2017, the co-op’s Board of Directors approved the planned fiber project. Board approval came after three feasibility studies, commissioned by GLE and its power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, concluded that a broadband network would be a responsible investment for the co-op. Bill Scott, President and CEO of GLE, wrote in Michigan Country Lines that this conclusion was “based in part on GLE’s very positive satisfaction rating… [and] on surveys done by GLE and Wolverine that show a high demand for high-speed, reasonably priced, Internet service.”

GLE began constructing the first portion of the Truestream network earlier this year. For the initial pilot, the co-op is focusing on the Petoskey service district, which includes Emmet County and parts of Charlevoix and Cheboygan Counties. An online FAQ explains this region was selected because it’s representative of the varying terrain, density, level of connectivity, and type of membership found throughout GLE’s service territory. Some homes could be online by the end of 2018.

logo-Truestream.jpg

State Representatives Lee Chatfield and Tristan Cole joined the co-op at a July 26th ribbon cutting ceremony to congratulate GLE on connecting...

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Posted July 19, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Residents of northern Arkansas will soon be able to obtain high-speed Internet access through their local electric cooperative. North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NAEC) recently received approval from its Board of Directors to expand its residential broadband pilot program, NEXT, Powered by NAEC. This expansion will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity and one gigabit speeds to the co-op’s entire service area. 

Origin of NEXT, Powered by NAEC

We first covered NEXT last year on Community Broadband Bits episode 243, when we talked to Mel Coleman, the CEO of NAEC.

While on the podcast, Coleman discussed how rural electric co-ops brought “the next greatest thing,” electricity, to their members. He views the provision of Internet services as following in the same historical tradition: “What we like to think is, ‘This is the next “next greatest thing,”’ and that is broadband in your home, true broadband.”

To bring broadband to their members, NAEC created the subsidiary NEXT to develop the fiber network and connect residences.

Developing a Successful Pilot

In 2016, the NEXT pilot program was launched in three locations in Baxter and Fulton counties. The pilot area included both urban and rural communities as well as portions of the small town of Salem, where NAEC is headquartered. Internet, voice, and video services were offered to approximately 1,500 co-op members within the pilot program’s targeted areas, according to the press release carried by Areawide News.

Since NAEC already owned a fiber backbone to manage its electrical system, the co-op simply had to build out from the existing infrastructure to connect residences. Eligible members could subscribe to symmetrical gigabit services for only $79.95 per month.

“We exceeded our goal of [pilot program] subscribers,” said Coleman, as quoted on the NAEC site, “and many have shared with us the benefits true broadband internet has brought to their families and businesses.”

What’s Next for NEXT?

Following the success of the pilot and the recent approval from the Board of...

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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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