fiberopticUntil now gigabit broadband projects in metro markets have garnered the most attention. But Bolt Fiber Optic Services, a unit of Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, said today it plans to offer gigabit broadband service in its rural Oklahoma serving area.

“Our… mission is to provide… membership with the same quality of life that they can get in bigger areas like Tulsa and Joplin,” said Alex Mercado, operations supervisor for Bolt Fiber Optic Services, in a promotional video about the new offering. As Sheila Allgood, Bolt Fiber Optic Services manager, explained in the video, Bolt’s serving area includes both wealthy and poverty-stricken areas, and as with many rural areas, the population has been declining. “Towns will continue to become ghost towns if we don’t change the pattern and start bringing in some good paying jobs,” said Allgood. “And technology and broadband is the key to getting those jobs coming to northeast Oklahoma.”

Electric Utility Gigabit Broadband
Bolt Fiber Optic Services plans to offer high-definition video services as well as high-speed Internet over the gigabit passive optical network (GPON) that it plans to build using equipment from Alcatel-Lucent. Customers also will be able to use third-party voice-over-Internet protocol offerings, the company noted in today’s announcement. The company plans to begin offering service in the fourth quarter of 2014 and to complete the deployment by April 2017.

As a utility company, Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative is not entitled to Universal Service funding. And some readers may be surprised that the company is able to make a business case for ultra-high-speed broadband deployment without that funding. I think one key factor is that the company is a cooperative owned by its members – and members apparently are clamoring for higher-speed broadband.

When Bolt Fiber Optic Service announced its gigabit network plans, a local bank took out a billboard to say thank you. According to today’s release, Bolt Fiber Optic Service was able to obtain Rural Utility Service funding for the deployment – and the RUS requires companies to submit viable business plans with financial forecasts before it will approve loans to those companies.

Bolt also is borrowing an idea that Google Fiber used to help fund a gigabit network in Kansas City. Bolt is asking members to make a deposit on the new broadband service to help cover construction costs.

Other companies that have announced plans to bring gigabit broadband to smaller towns and rural areas include other electric cooperatives  and wireless carrier/fiber network operator C Spire.

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