When it comes to connectivity, electric co-ops know a thing or two.
In the 1930s, the U.S. Federal Government passed legislation that connected millions of Americans to the electric grid—specifically those living in rural areas—and created the idea of electric cooperatives. Now, these co-ops are taking on a new task: delivering high-speed broadband internet to citizens with little to no access.
At a recent Fiber for Breakfast live video series, two experts discussed the role co-ops play and how private companies can help them achieve their connectivity goals. Rick Campos, chief operating officer of the Mohave Electric Cooperative and Ami Rodriguez, vice president of sales/marketing and business development at TWN Communications, spoke about their partnership and how it’s transforming the fiber game.
“Our members were fed up they didn’t have any broadband services, or you had very little to choose from,” Campos said. “We’re partnering with TWN and we’re building out a fiber network out to the rural areas. But we have a unique approach to this—it’s not just to carry broadband to our members, we find there’s a great need for our electric system.”
The Mohave Electric Cooperation was established in the 1940s in rural Arizona. Soon they moved into areas of the Mohave Mesa, and now has more than 1,500 miles of electrical line across rural communities in the Southwest providing service to more than 33,000 members.
Ten years ago, the co-op teamed up with TWN for fixed wireless solutions. Now, they plan to build a fiber-to-the-home network for members over the next several years. They also plan to run fiber to each electrical substation to modernize their grid and their community.
“With fiber, you can have a smart city, smart development all the way down to a smart home,” he said. “Without having that connectivity, you lose a lot of that opportunity.”
TWN is responsible for designing, building and running the network. The co-op provides the access and financial support. This type of partnership is designed for the experts to do what they do best while allowing the co-op to mitigate some of the risks. It’s also great from an infrastructure perspective. Using existing poles and underground lines, attaching fiber is accessible and easy.
Rodriguez said TWN has this type of partnership with other co-ops across the country and is beneficial for everyone: TWN, the co-op and its members.
“The whole point of us working with co-ops is to take some of the [infrastructure] burden away, but at the same time we heavily rely on their knowledge of the people, the network, the geography—things like that,” she said.
Right now, the co-op and TWN are starting their build slowly. Phase One starts in December, and they expect to be in Phase Two by the end of 2021. TWN is working closely with the co-op to sign people up for service. Their end goal is to have their entire service area with reliable, high-speed internet.
That’s what’s most exciting about the project, Rodriguez and Campos agreed. In the end, people with little to no internet options will have some of the fastest speeds at their fingertips—and at a fair rate. This will drive economic development, help close the homework gap and transform communities left behind by standard internet carriers.
Partnerships like TWN and Mohave Electric Cooperative show how working together can make connectivity possible.
“This is a game changer,” Rodriguez said. “Broadband is top of mind more than ever. Now people are looking to their co-ops to get broadband services. Partnerships like these, where both entities have skin in the game, are going to be the most successful.”
Join us for our next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on November 11 at 10 am ET. The topic: FBA 2020 Post-Election Analysis.