Tag: "rural electric coop"

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.

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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 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

An increasing number of local communities in Colorado are finding ways to improve rural connectivity. The Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a cooperative bringing electricity to approximately 28,000 members in southwest Colorado, is in the midst of Elevate, their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that will connect all co-op members. We’ve brought co-op Board Members John Gavan and Brad Harding on the show this week to talk about the project and DMEA.

This conversation describes how and why the project got started and the plans for the future. Cooperatives are member organizations and this story is an example of a member-driven project that started when the community chose to improve their future. Significant employment losses in the region had the potential for widespread ripple effects and community members saw high-quality connectivity as a must for economic development.

John and Brad also discuss how the project is part of a larger effort to cope with the loss of electricity demand due to local job losses in the coal industry and a desire to stay on the cusp of innovation. With new infrastructure, the cooperative is investigating ways to offer such enhancements as electric vehicle charging and energy storage. They’ve also been taking a second look at local renewable energy generation facilities and wholesale contracts. DMEA and its members are taking new steps in self-reliance.

DMEA has produced a short video on the Elevate project:

Read more about how cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural America in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.

This show is 31 minutes long...

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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 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:

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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 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 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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Posted March 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

Electric cooperatives in Virginia are continuing to transform connectivity in the state’s rural communities. With funding assistance from state and local government, projects in Mecklenburg and Appomattox Counties will soon be moving forward.

Building Out Mecklenburg

The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRCC) was formed when the state, along with Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas, chose to break off from a Master Settlement Agreement between the largest tobacco companies and the remaining 46 states. The proceeds from their separate settlement have been used for broadband and other projects to diversify the economy. The TRCC administers grants and a loan fund.

Last fall, the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) announced that they planned to upgrade their fiber optic network infrastructure to connect substations and district offices. The board of directors decided that the upgrade would give them the perfect opportunity to engage in a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. As part of the project, MEC entered into an agreement to use the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) fiber backbone.

The cooperative applied for a grant from TRRC and recently learned that they've been awarded $2.6 million for the $5.2 million project. They've dubbed the initiative the EmPower Broadband Cooperative.

EmPower will begin by offering 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical Internet service for approximately $65 - $75 per month; VoIP will also be available. Members within 1,000 feet of the backbone that MEC deploys will have the ability to sign up for the service. Like other pilot projects, MEC will use the opportunity to fine tune the service and gage interest before they decide whether or not to take EmPower to the rest of their electric service area and possibly beyond.

President of MEC John Lee:

Electric cooperatives are, far and away, the best positioned entities to bring ultra-high-speed broadband to the unserved or underserved rural areas of the Commonwealth, and MEC has...

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Posted March 22, 2018 by htrostle

In southern California, an electric cooperative provides high-speed Internet service and continues to expand, meeting the needs of its 4,000 rural members. With community support, Anza Electric has navigated paperwork, construction delays, and more challenges. In May 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission will decide whether or not to award a grant of $2.2 million for Anza Electric’s fiber network project, Connect Anza.

We spoke with Anza Electric’s General Manager Kevin Short to learn more about the grant proposal and the project timeline. In July 2017, we reported that Anza Electric had submitted the grant application for a rural area south of Mount Jacinto in Riverside County. Short provided us with an update and more information on why this area was not part of the co-op’s first Internet access project.

2018 Grant Application

This area in Riverside County follows scenic highway 74 and includes the communities of Pinyon Pines, Garner Valley, and Mountain Center. The project will provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet service to the rural co-op members. The co-op will also provide free high-speed Internet access to local fire stations and the Ronald McDonald camp for children with cancer. 

In total, the project costs $3.7 million, but the co-op has about $1.5 million to devote to the project. They hope to obtain the remaining $2.2 million from the California Advanced Services Fund through the California Public Utilities Commission. Anza Electric applied for the grant last year. More than 600 people have already signed onto a petition to support the co-op’s application. (Read the petition here.) The California Public Utilities Commission vote in May 2018 on the grant, which will significantly reduce the amount of time the co-op will need to connect the proposed project area.

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