Broadband scenarios that work in rural areas: cooperative approach

How does a rural community – currently served by satellite broadband – leap frog to fiber services? The answer is different for every rural area but the answer in Southern Arkansas was – weild the power of the cooperative. It’s a scenario that might work well in some parts of rural Minnesota as well.

Telecompetitor tells the story…

A rural telecom service provider and a neighboring rural electric power cooperative are coming together to bring gigabit broadband to parts of rural Arkansas. The rural telco is South Arkansas Telephone (SATCO) and the power company is Ouachita Electric Cooperative (OECC). The telecom, utility partnership has formed a new company called Arkansas Rural Internet Service (ARIS) – and according to ARIS Director Mark Lundy, each owner has a 50% share of ARIS.

There was an incumbent. In fact it was one of the large price cap carriers but that didn’t deter the partnership. Each brought something to the table. The provider had experience with broadband deployment. The electric coop had customer base and experience with other community services…

Although the economics of deploying FTTP in a rural area like south Arkansas can be challenging, the ARIS partnership had several things going for it to help minimize costs. SATCO had previously won a broadband stimulus award to install a 300-mile fiber optic artery across southern Arkansas, which should help minimize the cost of connecting to the Internet. The FTTP network also will help support a smart metering initiative for OECC – and OECC is considering offering smart metering capability for local gas companies.

In addition, because people in the target area are buying satellite broadband and video through OECC, the partners have a good idea how much revenue they might expect to generate from the new network, which will support voice and video as well as broadband service. …

The ARIS partnership is the latest example of how a telecom and utility company can come together to bring broadband to high-cost rural areas where it might not have been feasible for either company to tackle the task on its own. Telcos and utilities have used a variety of models in pursuing broadband goals. In Indiana, for example, broadband opportunities drove a telco and utility to merge with each other.

Again each area is different, but a scenario of a experience provider, committed coop and a vision could be right for some Minnesota communities.

This entry was posted in Building Broadband Tools, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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