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Content tagged with "north carolina"
Wilson has made their community-owned Greenlight fiber network central to their economic development plan, a move that may forge a new approach for other communities with similar assets.
In 2008, when Wilson’s Greenlight community network first launched, the Federal Communications Commission ranked North Carolina last in the nation in percentage of households subscribing to at least a "basic broadband" service. Today Wilson offers free Wi-Fi downtown, schools and libraries are outfitted with high-quality connectivity, and a majority of households subscribe to the broadband service.
Home to over 50,000 residents, Wilson has had a diverse history of industries popping up and dissipating over the years. After deploying their Greenlight Community Broadband, they’ve leveraged new businesses and an entrepreneurial spirit that shows no sign of relenting.
Wilson is initially focusing development downtown. The local daily paper The Wilson Daily Times decided to refurbish an old building and move downtown. The city raised money to renovate an old theater into a cultural center, and an electrical components manufacturing company, Peak Demand, has invested $2.6 million to renovate an old tobacco processing plant.
A Shift From the Old
Wilson involves all community stakeholders to make this revitalization a success. They have worked closely with Barton College, a liberal arts university, and the local nursing school. The community is consciously trying to buy locally and many people meet to discuss how best to promote this.
Wilson’s economic development model has evolved alongside their broadband network and they credit much of their success to Greenlight's benefits. In years past, many towns looked to bolster their economy by attracting companies that offered a windfall of manufacturing jobs— an industrial-era dream. But Wilson is no longer fretting over the decline of large-scale manufacturing companies that once haunted rural America. Instead, they’ve embraced the evolution towards technology companies and entrepreneurial business.
If you live in western North Carolina and struggle with the lack of quality Internet access, the Southwestern Commission — a council of local governments for the region’s seven westernmost counties — in cooperation with the MountainWest Partneship are urging residents to take this survey. Counties in the council include Haywood, Swain, Jackson, Macon, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay.
The goal is to quantify the demand for Internet regionally, focusing on individual counties as opposed to census blocks, in order to better determine accessibility issues. It’s an important process to show Internet providers that there is demand, debunking ISPs claim that rural demand for high-speed Internet doesn't justify the investment. Better data can also establish a foundation for future funding opportunities.
Sarah Thompson, the executive director of the council explained,
It’s really in my opinion one of the most important parts of the process. You’re basically showing [internet service providers] that there is demand, it’s showing even when there is service it’s subpar. In order to move forward with projects, we have to have that data to back up the need. To show that there are opportunities.
FCC’s Inaccurate Data Collection
Through the FCC’s form 477 data collection efforts, the Commission attempted to carry out these crucial first steps in showing aggregate demand and problematic broadband service. The data was compiled into the easily accessible National Broadband Map.
Data is collected from ISPs and it provides information to the FCC based on which census blocks ISPs serve. The problem is that this data exaggerates where coverage is available in rural areas where census blocks can be very large. Areas that may appear on the FCCs maps to be served or to be served with better connectivity are often in reality not served or served with Internet access much slower than FCC mapping indicates. Because state and federal entities typically award grants and loans to communities with the greatest need first, incorrect mapping eliminates rural communities from funding opportunities when they need it the most.
The future of high-quality Internet access in Pinetops, North Carolina, is precarious. Nearby Wilson’s municipal fiber network, Greenlight, provides gigabit connectivity for now, but a series of federal level decisions could change the situation at any moment. Now the story of these two communities and their fight for local telecommunications authority has come to life in the film Do Not Pass Go. Local communities can schedule a screening of the documentary. Watch the trailer below.
A Story Worth Telling
Cullen Hoback’s film tells the story that made national news and that we’ve shared as events unfolded.
Wilson, North Carolina’s municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network has benefitted residents, businesses, and institutions in Wilson since 2008. Neighboring rural towns, including Pinetops, had asked Wilson to expand in order to obtain better Internet access but state law precluded Wilson from serving beyond county borders.
When Chattanooga decided to challenge Tennessee’s law that had a similar effect, Wilson joined the motion to the FCC in 2015. The Commission struck down both laws and Wilson took the opportunity to expand service to Pinetops, the small mountain town of about 1,400 people. Pinetops businesses and residents immediately felt the improvement with FTTH. They experienced economic development opportunities and municipal facilities functioned more efficiently.
A recent proposal being considered by the FCC that has raised the loudest outcry has been the status of mobile broadband in rural areas. Now that Verizon is discontinuing rural subscriber accounts, the FCC will be able to see those concerns come to life.
The company has decided to cut service to scores of customers in 13 states because those subscribers have used so many roaming charges, Verizon says it isn’t profitable for the company. Service will end for affected subscribers after October 17th.
Verizon claims customers who use data while roaming via other providers’ networks create roaming costs that are higher than what the customers pay for services. In rural communities, often mobile wireless is the best (albeit poor) or only option for Internet access, so subscribers use their phones to go online.
Subscribers are from rural areas in Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.
In a letter sent to customers scheduled to be cut off, Verizon offered no option, such as paying more for more data or switching to a higher cost plan. Many of the people affected were enrolled in unlimited data plans:
“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17th, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”
Affecting Customers And Local Carriers
Apparently, Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, which creates partnerships with 21 other carriers, is the culprit. The agreements it has with the other carriers through the program allows Verizon subscribers to use those networks when they use roaming data, but Verizon must pay the carriers’ fees. Verizon has confirmed that they will disconnect 8,500 rural customers who already have little options for connectivity.
Philip Dampier at Stop The Cap! writes:
For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.
The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.
Strategic Alliance Partnership
WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.
Goals For The Network
WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.
Cooperatives around the country have built on their long legacy of delivering essential infrastructure by starting to deliver next-generation Internet services. Here, we cover the basics of cooperatives in rural areas and then discuss the details of electric and telephone cooperatives that have already branched out into Internet service. Finally, we highlight the first fiber optic cooperative provider, and discuss how other communities have better Internet service through building their own networks.
Read the full policy brief Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era on ILSR.org. View the archive for previous editions of the report.
Why Rural Cooperatives?
Cooperatives are part of the fabric of rural America. The member owners control the cooperative: each person receiving service is a member of the cooperative and can directly vote in elections for the Board of Directors or even become a member of the Board.
Starting in the 1930s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported communities as they created more than 900 electric cooperatives across the country. In the 1950s, the federal government again supported communities building telephone networks, crisscrossing the country with telephone cooperatives to connect rural communities.
Each technology brought new markets, revitalized economies, and revolutionized industries. Cooperatives have a long history of building and maintaining essential infrastructure and providing excellent service in rural communities. Now they have the chance to do that again by building next-generation networks for Internet service.
Rural Public Policies
Rural areas face a number of challenges that urban and suburban communities do not. Low population density coupled with rough terrain can make building infrastructure challenging. Added to these factors, rural communities may not have access to the same financial resources as larger towns and cities do.
Cooperatives, however, have made infrastructure projects work in rural communities for nearly a century. They have access to funding from their membership base, local banks, and often the federal government. Some state governments have expanded their broadband grant and loan programs to include electric cooperatives. Other states have clarified laws and policies to recognize that electric cooperatives can build fiber networks for Internet service using their current infrastructure. A few states have even removed legislative hurdles that stymied investments by electric cooperatives. Technically, the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Section 253, prohibits states from stopping any co-op from offering Internet service, but co-ops in many states are loathe to challenge state law in court.
In 2019, the state removed restrictions that prevented electric cooperatives from using USDA funding for non-electrical purposes, such as broadband networks. Our 2016 report, North Carolina Connectivity: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, highlighted how this roadblock kept the state’s electric co-ops from providing service to many rural communities.
During the 2017 legislative session, this state has clarified the language in its laws to allow electric cooperatives to build networks for Internet service.
Cooperatives already have access to utility poles, easements, and Rights-of-Way in the communities that they serve. Indiana, however, needed to clarify that electric co-ops can use this access to provide Internet service, so it passed the FIBRE Act. Other states, including Georgia, Maryland, and Texas, have since followed suit.
Minnesota & Colorado
Minnesota and Colorado have made funding easier to access for cooperatives interested in providing Internet service. Both states have designed grant programs that promote local solutions to connectivity problems. In Minnesota, cooperatives provide most of the Fiber-to-the-Home Internet service thanks in no small part to that grant program.
More than 900 rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Their service area, however, covers more than half of the total land, nearly 2 million square miles. About 90 rural electric co-ops have embarked on fiber optic projects to increase Internet access for their members.
Several of these electric cooperatives started by building fiber optic lines to substations and large demand centers to increase the reliability of the electric system through better monitoring. This could then form the backbone of a network for Internet service to businesses and residents.
Articles and Interviews
We have written many articles and collected several reports detailing how electric cooperatives have tried to increase Internet access in their communities. These stories show the many different ways electric cooperatives have structured partnerships and programs for their members.
Several electric cooperatives provide Internet service themselves. Some started pilot projects, while others built out to their entire service area. The Fiber-to-the-Home project by Valley Electric Association boosted the local economy in Pahrump, Nevada. The co-op has already added 31 new jobs because of the fiber service.
Others partner with an existing telephone cooperative or telephone company. Ouachita Electric in Arkansas is one of the many cooperatives to have done this. By combining their resources and expertise, this partnership is able to extend electric and Internet service throughout much of southern Arkansas.
Many electric cooperatives work together, such as Sho-Me Power in Missouri and LS Networks in Oregon. These cooperatives have provided connectivity for local ISPs and businesses, and now are looking to connect residents.
In episode 229 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Jon Chambers, the former head of the FCC Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, describes how electric cooperatives have the potential to bring Internet access to unserved rural America.
Mel Coleman, president of NRECA and CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, joined the podcast in episode 243 to discuss how the electric co-op had improved Internet access for its members and what other cooperatives are doing.
List of Fiber Projects
This is a list of the rural electric cooperatives that have programs and projects to increase connectivity in their service areas. They do not all provide Fiber-to-the-Home. Some only offer fiber connections to businesses or provide wireless last mile connections while others focus on dark fiber and fiber transport services for other Internet Service Providers. (Total: 109) (Last updated: 12/2019)
|Central Alabama Electric Cooperative||Alabama||FTTH (announced)|
|Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corporation||Alabama||FTTH (announced)|
|North Alabama Electric Cooperative||Alabama||FTTH|
|Tombigbee Electric Cooperative (freedom FIBER)||Alabama||FTTH|
|Wiregrass Electric Cooperative||Alabama||Fiber backbone (under construction) — collaboration with cable company to connect members|
|Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative (WAVE Rural Connect)||Arkansas||FTTH|
|Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation (Empower)||Arkansas||FTTH|
|North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NEXT)||Arkansas||FTTH|
|Ouachita Electric Cooperative (ARIS)||Arkansas||FTTH — collaboration with telephone company|
|Ozarks Electric Cooperative (OzarksGo)||Arkansas||FTTH|
|South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative (South Central Connect)||Arkansas||FTTH|
|Anza Electric Cooperative (ConnectAnza)||California||FTTH|
|Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications)||California||FTTH & wireless with fiber backbone|
|San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (Ciello)||Colorado||FTTH|
|Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Elevate Fiber)||Colorado||FTTH|
|Southeast Colorado Power Association (SECOM)||Colorado||FTTH|
|Yampa Valley Electric Association (Luminate Broadband)||Colorado||FTTH|
|Blue Ridge Mountain EMC||Georgia &|
|Habersham Electric Membership Corporation (Trailwave; North Georgia Network Cooperative)||Georgia||FTTH; FTTB and Schools|
|Jefferson Energy Cooperative||Georgia||FTTB — collaboration with Pineland Telephone Cooperative|
|Illinois Electric Cooperative||Illinois||FTTH|
|Jo-Carrol Energy (Sand Prairie)||Illinois||FTTH & wireless with fiber backbone|
|Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (Jackson Connect)||Indiana||FTTH|
|Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation||Indiana||FTTH — collaboration with NineStar Connect|
|NineStar Connect (merger between Central Indiana Power and Hancock Telecom)||Indiana||FTTH|
|Orange County Rural Electric Membership Corporation||Indiana||FTTH|
|South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation||Indiana||FTTH|
|Tipmont Rural Electric Membership Corporation (Wintek)||Indiana||FTTH|
|Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative (AC Skyways)||Iowa||Wireless with fiber backbone|
|Maquoketa Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (MVLink)||Iowa||FTTH|
|Bulter Electric Cooperative (Velocity)||Kansas||FTTH|
|Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation||Kentucky||FTTH pilot projects (announced) — collaborations with North Central Telephone Company and Franklin Electric Power Board|
|Great Lakes Energy (Truestream)||Michigan||FTTH|
|Midwest Energy Cooperative (Midwest Energy and Communications)||Michigan||FTTH|
|Tri-County Electric Cooperative (HomeWorks Connect)||Michigan||FTTH|
|Arrowhead Electric Cooperative (True North Broadband)||Minnesota||FTTH|
|Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association (Vibrant Broadband)||Minnesota||Wireless with fiber backbone — collaboration with Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company and Spring Grove Communications|
|MiEnergy Electric Cooperative||Minnesota||FTTH & wireless with fiber backbone|
|Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (XStream Internet)||Minnesota||FTTH — collaboration with telephone cooperative CTC|
|Roseau Electric Cooperative||Minnesota||FTTH (announced) — collaboration with local telephone company|
|Alcorn County Electric Power Association (ACE Fiber)||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Coast Electric Power Association (CoastConnect)||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Delta Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Monroe County Electric Power Association (M-Pulse Fiber)||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Natchez Trace Electric Power Association (NT Spark)||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Northcentral Mississippi Electric Power Association (Northcentral Connect)||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Northeast Mississippi Electric Power Association (North East Fiber, LLC/NE SPARC)||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association (PearlComm Fiber)||Mississippi||FTTH (Announced)|
|Prentiss County Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Singing River Electric Power Association (Singing River Connect)||Mississippi||FTTH (pilot)|
|Southern Pine Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association (TVI-Fiber)||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Tippah Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Tishomingo County Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH|
|Tombigbee Electric Power Association||Mississippi||FTTH (announced)|
|Barry Electric Cooperative (goBEC)||Missouri||FTTH|
|Callaway Electric (Callabyte Technology)||Missouri||FTTH — collaboration with Kingdom Telephone Cooperative|
|Co-Mo Electric Cooperative (Co-Mo Connect)||Missouri||FTTH|
|Grundy Electric Cooperative (Mid-States Services)||Missouri||FTTH|
|Pemiscot Dunklin Electric Cooperative (Pemiscot Dunklin Fiber)||Missouri||FTTH|
|Ralls County Electric Cooperative (Ralls Technologies)||Missouri||FTTH|
|SEMO Electric Cooperative (GoSEMO Fiber)||Missouri||FTTH|
|United Electric Cooperative (United Fiber)||Missouri||FTTH|
|Crawford Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Gascoasage Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Laclede Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Southwest Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Webster Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|White River Valley Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||FTTB & Transport Services|
|Valley Electric Association (Valley Communications Association)||Nevada||FTTH|
|Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (Red Bolt Broadband)||New Mexico||FTTH|
|Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (Kit Carson Internet)||New Mexico||FTTH|
|Delaware County Electric Cooperative||New York||FTTH — collaboration with local telephone companies|
|Otsego Electric Cooperative (OEConnect)||New York||FTTH|
|French Broad Electric Membership Corporation||North Carolina||FTTH|
|Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation (Bluewave Communications NC)||North Carolina||FTTH — collaboration with Horry Telephone Cooperative|
|Roanoke Electric Cooperative (Roanoke Connect)||North Carolina||FTTH|
|Consolidated Electric Cooperative||Ohio||FTTH|
|East Central Oklahoma Cooperative (ecoLINK)||Oklahoma||FTTH (under construction)|
|Lake Region Electric Cooperative (Lake Region Technology & Communications)||Oklahoma||FTTH|
|Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (Bolt Fiber Optic Services)||Oklahoma||FTTH|
|Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC Fiber)||Oklahoma||FTTH|
|Consumers Power (Peak Internet)||Oregon||FTTP (open access network) — collaboration with Pioneer Consolidated and Stayton Cooperative Telephone Company|
|Central Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||FTTB, Schools, & Transport Services|
|Douglas Electric Cooperative (Douglas Fast Net; LS Networks)||Oregon||FTTH; FTTB, Schools, & Transport Services|
|Hood River Electric Cooperative (CACHE Communications; LS Networks)||Oregon||FTTH; FTTB, Schools, & Transport Services|
|Umatilla Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||FTTB, Schools, & Transport Services|
|West Oregon Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||FTTB, Schools, & Transport Services|
|Sullivan County Rural Electric Cooperative||Pennsylvania||FTTH (announced)|
|Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative||Pennsylvania||FTTH (announced)|
|Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative (Carolina Connect)||South Carolina||FTTH|
|Newberry Electric Cooperative (Carolina Connect)||South Carolina||FTTH — collaboration with Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative|
|Appalachian Electric Cooperative||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Cumberland Electric Membership Cooperative (Cumberland Connect)||Tennessee||FTTH (announced)|
|Forked Deer Electric Cooperative (Forked Deer Connect)||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Gibson Electric Membership Corporation (Gibson Connect)||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Holston Electric Cooperative (Holston Connect)||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative (MLConnect)||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEConnect)||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Tri-County Electric Cooperative||Tennessee||FTTH|
|Volunteer Electric Cooperative (Twin Lakes, powered by VEC)||Tennessee||FTTH — collaboratin with Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative|
|Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC Fiber)||Texas||FTTH|
|Grayson Collin Electric Cooperative (Grayson Collin Communications)||Texas||FTTH|
|Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative||Texas||FTTH|
|Jackson Electric Cooperative (MyJEC.net)||Texas||FTTH & wireless with fiber backbone|
|Taylor Electric Cooperative (Access Fiber)||Texas||FTTH|
|Victoria Electric Cooperative (Infinium)||Texas||FTTH & wireless with fiber backbone|
|BARC Electric Cooperative (BARC Connects)||Virginia||FTTH|
|Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (Firefly Broadband)||Virginia||FTTH|
|Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative||Virginia||FTTH (announced)|
|Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (EMPOWER Broadband)||Virginia||FTTH|
|Prince George Electric Cooperative (Ruralband)||Virginia||FTTH|
|Columbia Rural Electric Association (Columbia iConnect)||Washington||FTTH Pilot Project|
|Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (Rock Island Communications)||Washington||FTTH|
|Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative (Ntera)||Wisconsin||FTTH — collaboration with telephone cooperative Citizens Connected|
There are about 260 telephone cooperatives in the United States. Many provide Internet service as a natural extension of their existing infrastructure. Many started out by providing dial-up and DSL services, but only recently have begun to transition to Fiber-to-the-Home. Some have already transitioned to an all-fiber network, having upgraded everyone in their territory to fiber.
The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) has a gigabit certification program in order to draw attention to how many small telephone companies cooperatives have built these next-generation networks.
Articles & Interviews
We have featured a number of these cooperatives on our website. Some cooperatives choose to work with local governments or electric cooperatives while others focus on providing service alone. Below is just a small selection of the many cooperatives that have built Fiber-to-the-Home networks.
In Michigan, a rural telephone cooperative got its start in the early 2000s. The community went from sparse telephone service to state-of-the-art Internet service. Read more about Allband Communications Cooperatives unique story here.
Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative in Minnesota has expanded their GigaZone throughout the northern half of the state, including Red Lake Nation.
In Missouri, Callaway Electric Cooperative and Kingdom Telephone Company (the local telephone co-op) teamed up to form a new company together called Callabyte Technology to deliver Fiber-to-the-Home service.
Episode 188 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast features Eric Cramer, the President and CEO of Wilkes Communications/RiverStreet Networks. He explained how the telephone cooperative has built a Fiber-to-the-Home network throughout several counties in northern North Carolina.
The First Internet Cooperative
Cooperatives are not just telephone and electric. There is now a workable model for Internet cooperatives created from scratch. RS Fiber in Minnesota is the first cooperative formed for the express purpose of providing reliable, high-speed Internet service.
We have extensive coverage of how RS Fiber started and the rural communities they have connected. Read more in our report RS Fiber Fertile Fields: New Rural Internet Cooperative.
List of Gigabit Cooperatives
These cooperatives offer gigabit speeds to residents and/or businesses within their service areas. (Total: 210) (Last updated: 12/2019)
|3 Rivers Communications||Montana||Telephone|
|Ace Telephone Association (Ace Communications or AcenTek)||Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa||Telephone|
|Adams Telephone Cooperative||Illinois||Telephone|
|Albany Mutual Telephone Association||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Appalachian Electric Cooperative||Tennessee||Electric|
|Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative (WAVE Rural Connect)||Arkansas||Electric|
|Arthur Mutual Telephone Company||Ohio||Telephone|
|Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Ballard Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation (Bringing Technology Closer)||Kentucky||Telephone|
|Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC Fiber)||Texas||Electric|
|BARC Electric Cooperative (BARC Connects)||Virginia||Electric|
|Barry Electric Cooperative (goBEC)||Missouri||Electric|
|BEK Communications Cooperative (BEK Lightband)||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Ben Lomand Rural Telephone Cooperative (Ben Lomand Connect)||Tennesseee||Telephone|
|Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative||Tennesseee||Telephone|
|Blue Valley Telecommunications||Kansas||Telephone|
|Bulloch Telephone Cooperative||Georgia||Telephone|
|Callaway Electric Cooperative (Callabyte Technology) — collaboration with Kingdom Telephone Cooperative||Missouri||Electric and telephone|
|Canby Telephone Association (DirectLink)||Oregon||Telephone|
|Central Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||Electric|
|Central Texas Telephone Cooperative||Texas||Telephone|
|Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (Firefly Broadband)||Virginia||Electric|
|Chariton Valley Telephone Corporation||Missouri||Telephone|
|Chequamegon Communications Cooperative (Norvado)||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Chibardun Telephone Cooperative (Mosaic Telecom)||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative (Ntera) — collaboration with telephone cooperative Citizens Connected||Wisconsin||Electric and Telephone|
|Citizens Mutual Telephone Cooperative||Iowa||Telephone|
|Citizens Telephone Cooperative||Virginia||Telephone|
|Citizens Telephone Cooperative||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Clay County Rural Telephone Cooperative (Endeavor Communications)||Indiana||Telephone|
|Co-Mo Electric Cooperative (Co-Mo Connect)||Missouri||Electric|
|Cochrane Cooperative Telephone Company||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Columbia Rural Electric Association (Columbia iConnect)||Washington||Electric|
|Columbus Telephone (Optic Communications)||Kansas||Telephone|
|Consolidated Electric Cooperative||Ohio||Electric|
|Consolidated Telcom||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC)||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Cooperative Telephone Exchange||Iowa||Telephone|
|Copper Valley Telephone Cooperative (Copper Valley Telecom)||Alaska||Telephone|
|Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation (Empower)||Arkansas||Electric|
|Craw Kan Telephone Cooperative||Kansas||Telephone|
|Crawford Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Custer Telephone Cooperative, Inc.||Idaho||Telephone|
|Dakota Central Telecommunications||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Danville Mutual Telephone Company (i-connect you)||Iowa||Telephone|
|Daviess-Martin Rural Telephone Corporation (RTC Communications)||Indiana||Telephone|
|DeKalb Telephone Cooperative, Inc||Tennessee||Telephone|
|Delaware County Electric Cooperative||New York||Electric|
|Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Elevate Fiber)||Colorado||Electric|
|Dickey Rural Telephone Cooperative||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Douglas Electric Cooperative (Douglas Fast Net; LS Networks)||Oregon||Electric|
|Eastern New Mexico Rural Telephone Cooperative (Plateau Telecommunications)||New Mexico||Telephone|
|Eastern Oregon Telecom||Oregon||Telephone|
|Ellsworth Cooperative Telephone Association||Iowa||Telephone|
|Emily Cooperative Telephone Company||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Farmers Mutual Cooperative Telephone Company||Iowa||Telephone|
|Farmers Mutual Telephone Company||Iowa||Telephone|
|Farmers Mutual Telephone Company (Acira — partnership with Federated Telephone Cooperative)||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative||Alabama||Telephone|
|Farmers Telephone Cooperative||South Carolina||Telephone|
|Federated Telephone Cooperative (Acira — partnership with Farmers Mutual Telephone Company)||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Foothills Telephone Cooperative (Foothills Communications)||Kentucky||Telephone|
|Forked Deer Electric Cooperative (Forked Deer Connect)||Tennessee||Electric|
|French Broad Electric Membership Corporation||North Carolina||Electric|
|Garden Valley Telephone Company (Garden Valley Technologies)||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Gascoasage Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Gervais Telephone Company (DataVision Cooperative)||Oregon||Telephone|
|Gibson Electric Membership Corporation (Gibson Connect)||Tennessee||Electric|
|Golden Belt Telephone Association||Kansas||Telephone|
|Grand River Mutual Telephone Corporation (GRM Networks)||Missouri||Telephone|
|Grayson Collin Electric Cooperative (Grayson Collin Communications)||Texas||Electric|
|Great Lakes Energy (Truestream)||Mississippi||Electric|
|Griswold Cooperative Telephone Company (Griswold Communications)||Iowa||Telephone|
|Grundy Electric Cooperative (Mid-States Services)||Missouri||Electric|
|Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative||Texas||Electric|
|Guadalupe Valley Telephone Cooperative||Texas||Telephone|
|Habersham Electric Membership Corporation (Trailwave; North Georgia Network Cooperative)||Georgia||Electric|
|Halstad Telephone Company||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Highland Telephone Cooperative||Tennessee||Telephone|
|Hill Country Telephone Cooperative||Texas||Telephone|
|Holston Electric Cooperative (Holston Connect)||Tennessee||Electric|
|Hood River Electric Cooperative (CACHE Communications; LS Networks)||Oregon||Electric|
|Horry Telephone Cooperative||South Carolina||Telephone|
|Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Huxley Communications Cooperative||Iowa||Telephone|
|Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Jackson County Rural Elctric Membership Corporation (Jackson Connect)||Indiana||Electric|
|Jefferson Energy Cooperative — collaboration with Pineland Telephone Cooperative||Georgia||Electric and Telephone|
|Jo-Carrol Energy (Sand Prairie)||Illinois||Electric|
|Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation — collaboration with NineStar Connect||Indiana||Electric and telephone|
|Kalona Cooperative Technology Company||Iowa||Telephone|
|Kingdom Telephone Company||Missouri||Telephone|
|Laclede Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Lake Region Electric Cooperative (Lake Region Technology & Communications)||Oklahoma||Electric|
|LaValle Telephone Cooperative||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative||New Mexico||Telephone|
|Lehigh Valley Cooperative Telephone Association||Iowa||Telephone|
|Logan Telephone Cooperative||Kentucky||Telephone|
|Maquoketa Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (MVLink)||Iowa||Electric|
|Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Matanuska Telephone Association||Alaska||Telephone|
|Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (EMPOWER Broadband)||Virginia||Electric|
|Meriweather Lewis Electric Cooperative (MLConnect)||Tennessee||Electric|
|Mid Century Telephone Cooperative (Mid Century Communications)||Illinois||Telephone|
|Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative (Carolina Connect)||South Carolina||Electric|
|Mid-Rivers Telephone Cooperative (Mid-Rivers Communications)||Montana||Telephone|
|Midstate Communications||South Dakota||Telephone|
|Midwest Energy Cooperative (Midwest Energy and Communications)||Michigan||Electric|
|Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (XStream Internet) — collaboration with CTC||Minnesota||Electric and telephone|
|Molalla Telephone Company (Molalla Communications)||Oregon||Telephone|
|Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation||Kentucky||Telephone|
|Nelson Communications Cooperative (Ntec)||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Nemont Telephone Cooperative||Montana||Telephone|
|New Hope Telephone Cooperative||Alabama||Telephone|
|New Lisbon Telephone Company||Indiana||Telephone|
|Newberry Electric Cooperative (Carolina Connect)||South Carolina||Electric|
|NineStar Connect (merger between Central Indiana Power and Hancock Telecom)||Indiana||Electric and telephone|
|North Alabama Electric Cooperative||Alabama||Electric|
|North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NEXT)||Arkansas||Electric|
|North Central Telephone Cooperative||Tennessee and Kentucky||Telephone|
|North Dakota Telephone Company||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company||Nebraska||Telephone|
|Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (Bolt Fiber Optic Services)||Oklahoma||Electric|
|Northwest Communications Cooperative||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC Fiber)||Oklahoma||Electric|
|Orange County Rural Electric Membership Corporation||Indiana||Electric|
|Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (Rock Island Communications)||Washington||Electric|
|Otsego Electric Cooperative (OEConnect)||New York||Electric|
|Ouachita Electric Cooperative (ARIS)||Arkansas||Electric|
|Ozarks Electric Cooperative (OzarksGo)||Arkansas||Electric|
|Palmetto Rural Telephone Company||South Carolina||Telephone|
|Panhandle Telephone Cooperative, Inc.||Oklahoma||Telephone|
|Panora Communications Cooperative||Iowa||Telephone|
|Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Peak Internet (partnership between Pioneer Consolidated, Consumers Power, and Stayton Cooperative Telephone Company)||Oregon||Electric and telephone|
|Pemiscot Dunklin Electric Cooperative||Missouri||Electric|
|Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative||Kentucky||Telephone|
|Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone Cooperative (Perry-Spencer Communications)||Indiana||Telephone|
|Phillips County Telephone Company (PC Telcom)||Colorado||Telephone|
|Pineland Telephone Cooperative||Georgia||Telephone|
|Pioneer Telephone Cooperative||Oklahoma||Telephone|
|Plains Cooperative Telephone Association||Colorado||Telephone|
|Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications)||California||Electric|
|Polar Communications Mutual Aid Corporation||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Prince George Electric Cooperative (Ruralband)||Virginia||Electric|
|Rainbow Telecommunications Association (Rainbow Communications)||Kansas||Telephone|
|Ralls County Electric Cooperative (Ralls Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Randolph Telephone Membership Corporation (Randoph Communications)||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Range Telephone Cooperative (RT Communications)||Montana, Wyoming||Telephone|
|Red River Rural Telephone Association||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Reservation Telephone Cooperative||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Richland-Grant Telephone Cooperative||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Runestone Telecom Association||Minnesota||Telephone|
|Rural Telephone Service Cooperative (Nex-Tech)||Kansas||Telephone|
|San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (Ciello)||Colorado||Electric|
|Scio Mutual Telephone Association||Oregon||Telephone|
|Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|SEMO Electric Cooperative (GoSEMO Fiber)||Missouri||Electric|
|Sequatchee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEConnect)||Tennessee||Electric|
|Sherwood Mutual Telephone Association||Ohio||Telephone|
|Skyline Telephone Membership Corporation (SkyBest Communications)||North Carolina||Telephone|
|South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative (South Central Connect)||Arkansas||Electric|
|South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation||Indiana||Electric|
|South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative||Kentucky||Telephone|
|South Central Utah Telephone Association (South Central Communications)||Utah||Telephone|
|South Slope Cooperative Communications||Iowa||Telephone|
|Southeast Colorado Power Association (SECOM)||Colorado||Electric|
|Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative||Arkansas||Telephone|
|Southwest Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|SRT Communications||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Star Telephone Membership Corporation (Star Communications)||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Surry Communications Membership Cooperation||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Taylor Electric Cooperative (Access Fiber)||Texas||Electric|
|The Ottoville Mutual Telephone Company||Ohio||Telephone|
|Tipmont Rural Electric Membership Corporation (Wintek)||Indiana||Electric|
|Tombigbee Electric Cooperative (freedom FIBER)||Alabama||Electric|
|Tri-County Communications Cooperative||Wisconsin||Electric|
|Tri-County Electric Cooperative||Tennessee||Electric|
|Tri-County Electric Cooperative (HomeWorks Connect)||Michigan||Electric|
|Tri-County Telephone Association||Kansas||Electric|
|Tri-County Telephone Membership Corporation (RiverStreet Networks)||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative Corporation||Tennessee||Telephone|
|UBTA-UBET Communications, also known as Strata Networks||Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming||Telephone|
|Umatilla Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||Electric|
|United Electric Cooperative (United Fiber)||Missouri||Electric|
|United Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation (Turtle Mountain Communications)||North Dakota||Telephone|
|Valley Electric Association (Valley Communications Association)||Nevada||Electric|
|Valley Telecommunications||South Dakota||Telephone|
|Venture Communications Cooperative||South Dakota||Telephone|
|Vernon Communications Cooperative||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|Victoria Electric Cooperative (Infinium)||Texas||Electric|
|Volunteer Electric Cooperative (Twin Lakes, powered by VEC)||Tennessee||Electric and telephone|
|Wabash Communications Cooperative||Illinois||Telephone|
|Wabash Mutual Telephone Company||Ohio||Telephone|
|Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative (Tele-media Solutions)||Indiana||Telephone|
|Webster Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Webster-Calhoun Cooperative Telephone Association||Iowa||Telephone|
|West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative (West Carolina Tel)||South Carolina||Telephone|
|West Central Telephone Association||Minnesota||Telephone|
|West Kentucky and Tennessee Communications Cooperative||Kentucky, Tennessee||Telephone|
|West Oregon Electric Cooperative (LS Networks)||Oregon||Electric|
|West River Telecommunications Cooperative||North Dakota and South Dakota||Telephone|
|West Wisconsin Telcom Cooperative (24-7 Telcom)||Wisconsin||Telephone|
|White River Valley Electric Cooperative / Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative (Sho-Me Technologies)||Missouri||Electric|
|Wiggins Telephone Association (Blue Lightning)||Colorado||Telephone|
|Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation (RiverStreet Networks)||North Carolina||Telephone|
|Yampa Valley Electric Association (Luminate Broadband)||Colorado||Electric|
|Yucca Telecommunications Systems||New Mexico||Telephone|
Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episodes
Listen to our collection of Community Broadband Bits Podcasts to learn firsthand about how electric cooperatives have made the decision to provide Internet service.
|Tri-County Rural Electric Delivering Connectivity, Expanding Partnerships, in Appalachians||Co-op finds funding, partners to build broadband network demanded by members||Craig Eccher||Transcript 383|
|South Dakota Fiber All About the Local||Co-ops, cities, locally-owned companies, and tribal ISPs invest in rural South Dakota||Greg Dean||Transcript 369|
|Firefly Fiber All the Buzz in Central Virginia||Central Virginia Electric Co-op's new fiber project and how members are embracing better connectivity||Melissa Gay and Gary Wood||Transcript 358|
|Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative Steps Up, Offers FTTH in Missouri's Bootheel||Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative's FTTH project in rural Missouri and how the environment impacted network design||Jack Davis||Transcript 344|
|RiverStreet Networks Reaching Across Rural North Carolina||Co-op partners with other co-ops and communities to connect rural N.C.||Greg Coltrain||Transcript 342|
|Great Lakes Energy's Big Plan for Big Fiber||Largest electric co-op in Michigan is deploying a FTTH network||Shari Culver||Transcript 324|
|Analyzing the Auction With Jonathan Chambers||Results of the Connect America Fund Phase II auction, including a strong showing by electric co-ops||Jonathan Chambers||Transcript 321|
|DMEA Co-op Serving Up Broadband and Innovation in Colorado||The Delta Montrose Electric Association fiber deployment in Colorado||John Gavan and Brad Harding||Transcript 314|
|North Dakota's Exceptional Fiber Networks||North Dakota has low population density, but many fiber cooperatives||Robin Anderson||Transcript 288|
|Kit Carson Fibers up New Mexico||Electric Cooperative builds fiber network in rural New Mexico||Luis Reyes||Transcript 277|
|Allband All-in For Rural Michigan Internet Access||Folks build a cooperative from scratch in rural Michigan||Ron Siegel||Transcript 276|
|Rural Electric Co-ops as Reluctant Warriors for Broadband||The challenges and decisions that rural electric cooperatives face||Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts||Transcript 249|
|What's NEXT in North Arkansas?||North Arkansas Electric Cooperative's pilot project for high-speed Internet service||Mel Coleman||Transcript 243|
|United Fiber Tackles Missouri's Most Rural||The demand for better, faster connections and the role of rural electric cooperatives||Darren Farnan||Transcript 240|
|Rural Electrics Solve Rural Internet Access Problems||Former head of FCC's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis on politics and rural connectivity||Jon Chambers||Transcript 229|
|Midwest Energy Cooperative Connects Rural Michigan||A rural electric cooperative provides fiber connectivity||Bob Hance and Dave Allen||Transcript 225|
|H.R. Trostle on Co-Ops, Munis, Connectivity in North Carolina||ILSR Research Associate discusses North Carolina and Internet access||H.R. Trostle||Transcript 224|
|Tennessee Potential Partnership Between Morristown Muni and AEC Co-op||Morristown Tennessee, and the local electric co-op are teaming up to deliver needed services||Jody Wigington and Greg Williams||Transcript 203|
|A New Cooperative Model for Fiber to the Farm||The RS Fiber Cooperative steals the spotlight with its new cooperative model||Mark Erickson and Jake Rieke||Transcript 198|
|North Carolina Co-op Fibers Up Rural Counties and More||What does it take for a telephone co-op in North Carolina to provide FTTH? President and CEO of Wilkes Communications and RiverStreet Networks explains||Eric Cramer||Transcript 188|
|Rural Electric Co-Mo Co-op Goes Gig||Discussion on how Co-Mo electric co-op in rural Missouri structured broadband network and its objective to enter the business and results||Randy Klindt||Transcript 140|
|Catching Up with the RS Fiber Co-op in Minnesota||Update on the RS Fiber Co-op project in Minnesota||Mark Erickson and Cindy Gerholz||Transcript 99|
|Understanding the Georgia Communications Cooperative||Discussion on how cooperatives work together and expand the regional network in Georgia and challenges to connect rural premises with fiber optics||Mike Foor||Transcript 92|
|North Georgia Network Brings Gig to Schools, Jobs to Region||The origin of the North Georgia Network and its economic and social impact on the region||Paul Belk||Transcript 46|
It’s been a long road for Pinetops, North Carolina, as they’ve sought better connectivity in their rural community. After dramatic ups and downs, the community seems to have finally found a tepid resolution. Greenlight can, for now, continue to serve Pinetops.
On June 28th, the General Assembly passed HB 396, which allows Wilson’s municipal network, Greenlight, to continue to provide gigabit connectivity to the town and to Vick Family Farms but establishes conditions. If or when another provider brings Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service to Pinetops, Wilson has 30 days to end service as customers transition to the new provider. Until a different provider comes to Pinetops, Greenlight will continue to offer its gigabit connectivity to the approximately 600 households and premises in the community of about 1,300 people.
In addition to premises in the town of Pinetops, Greenlight is serving Vick Family Farm, a local potato manufacturer. When the business obtained access to high-quality Internet access, they were able to expand their business internationally; they invested in a high tech distribution facility. The facility requires the kind of capacity they can only get from Greenlight.
Community leaders in Pinetops are relieved they don’t have to give up fiber connectivity, but they’re happy with the service they get with Greenlight and would rather stick with the muni.
“Although not the solution we expected, we are pleased this bill allows us to continue to leverage Greenlight’s next generation infrastructure as we focus on growing our community,” said [Town Commissioner Suzanne] Coker-Craig. “Hopefully, no other provider will exercise the option to build redundant infrastructure that our community neither wants nor needs. Pinetops has made it clear that we want the quality and speed of service that only Greenlight can provide.”
Alexander County, North Carolina, recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a firm to conduct a broadband assessment and feasibility study. Applications are due July 24th.
In addition to examining what type of service and where service is currently available, the county wants a firm that will help create a strategy to improve what they already know is poor connectivity throughout the county. Funding sources should be identified along with helpful public policy suggestions.
According to the RFP, approximately 50 percent of 1,954 respondents in a recent indicated that their Internet service did not have sufficient speed. Sixty-five percent don’t have access to broadband as defined by the FCC (25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload), and about 12 percent use their mobile devices to access the Internet. Sixteen percent noted that affordability is a problem. Approximately 84 percent of respondents indicated that they’d like to have more options for Internet access.
Alexander County is mostly rural and home to about 38,000 people. Manufacturing is an important part of the economy but farmland makes up much of its 264 square miles. Taylorsville is the county seat and the only town, with a few other unincorporated communities in the county. Bethlehem, a census designated place is located in the southwest corner of the county and is also somewhat densely populated, relative to the rest of the county.
The community is on the west side of the state, about an hour north of Charlotte. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) classifies the community's economic status as "transitional" and the North Carolina Department of Commerce considers it an average economically distressed county. A little more than half of school kids qualify for free and reduced lunches. Unemployment is at 3.2 percent as of April 2017. County leaders hope that improving connectivity within the region will also help diversify the economy and improve the employment situation for residents.
North Carolinians, do you feel like your state is 90 - 93 percent covered with Internet access that provides 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload speeds? If you live in one of the state's many rural areas, probably not. The state is now providing an opportunity for North Carolinians to verify and comment on FCC mapping data with a new state broadband mapping tool.
Cleaning Up The Data
The state’s Department of Information Technology released the tool in May and encourages residents and businesses to test out the accuracy of their premise data. The map uses FCC acquired from ISPs that report coverage and speeds on Form 477. The data, based on census blocks, typically overstates coverage, creating maps that are unreliable and inaccurate. North Carolina officials aim to correct that.
“We want to get better data so we can go back to the FCC and tell them your data says your census block is served, but less than 25 per cent of the people are actually getting service,” says Jeff Sural, director of the North Carolina broadband infrastructure office.
With better data, state officials hope to increase FCC funding opportunities and determine what areas are in the most dire straits regarding lack of Internet access. The tool asks users to review the data that was submitted by ISPs for their address, conduct a speed test, and confirm whether or not they have access to the connectivity that the ISPs claim they do, and if not, provide more accurate information.
Once a threshold of users have completed the test to allow the results to be displayed on the map, the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office will begin sharing the results on the map.
It's A Start
The effort will help obtain a more accurate picture of what’s really going on in the Internet access trenches if residents and businesses participate, but the state needs to go further to ease its connectivity problems. In a recent State Scoop article, Christopher once again pointed out the failings caused by state restrictions that discourage investment:
For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.
Skewed Data = Skewed Results
Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.
So Many Problems
In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.
Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):