Two Missouri electric co-ops are the latest example of an ongoing trend of electric utilities getting into the broadband access business. Co-Mo Electric Cooperative (Co-Mo) of Tipton, Missouri and United Electric Cooperative (United) of Maryville, Missouri both will build FTTP networks, using the Calix E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform (ESAP).
Many electric co-ops are looking to expand their business with broadband access, using both wireline and wireless technologies. Part of this broadband momentum for electrics is driven by the smart grid, while others are simply looking for diversification. Of the latest two, United was one of the few electric co-ops to win a broadband stimulus award, which is helping fund their $21.2 million FTTP project.
Co-Mo also applied for stimulus funding but was turned down. They decided to move forward anyway, and set up a couple pilot projects. They call their broadband initiative Co-Mo Connect. Co-Mo achieved 30 percent penetration in their pilot projects, prompting them to expand this FTTP program. According to a Calix press release, Co-Mo intends to offer broadband speeds of up to 35 Mbps to residential customers.
“In rural Missouri, we must find every opportunity to keep our community thriving and competitive with urban areas,” said Ken Johnson, general manager and CEO at Co-Mo in a Calix press release. “With this fiber access network, every member of our cooperative will benefit, from recent graduates who can now work from home, to businesses that can take advantage of tailored, high-bandwidth packages, and schools and hospitals that can collaborate with other institutions.”
The United project will use a Broadband Initiative Program (BIP) award to bring FTTP to more than 4,200 residences and 58 anchor institutions. United intends to offer a triple play service.
“At United, we serve a very large area with a low subscriber density, but within our member base we found a huge need for true broadband services,” said Gene Dorrel, general manager at United in a Calix press release “Prior to our fiber project, 79 percent of our members had computers, but lacked adequate broadband. With our commitment to our members and history of being dedicated to our community, it was clear that United could be a vehicle for change.”
Calix sees a growth opportunity with electric co-ops. They intend to highlight these two examples at upcoming electric co-op tradeshows, including next week’s National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA’s) TechAdvantage 2012 Conference & Expo in San Diego.
Telecompetitor previously covered the Co-Mo project in April 2011, when we looked at organizers’ creative techniques for generating community interest in the FTTP project.