Working together previously is what led Bay Country Communications, a cable/voice/ISP provider, and Choptank Electric Cooperative and its subsidiary Choptank Fiber LLC, to take things to the next level, said Tim McGaha, Vice President of Technical Services, Choptank Electric and Vice President of Operations, Choptank Fiber, in an interview with Telecompetitor. It’s the latest example of a broadband/utility partnership.
The two Maryland-based companies, located in Cambridge and Denton respectively, recently entered into a 10-year partnership to bring fiber-based, high-speed broadband services to at least 3,000 new locations annually in an eight-county footprint, according to a press release on the deal.
“Bay Country Communications partnered with Choptank Fiber because they are an industry leader and they are as community oriented as we are. It was the perfect fit,” said Scott Schilling, Chief Executive Officer of Bay Country Communications.
Both companies are “staples in the communities” to which they deliver services and both companies have partnered with each other in the past on things such as access to fiber and utility poles, said McGaha.
“Once Choptank Electric started its fiber broadband subsidiary, Choptank Fiber [in 2020], both parties thought it would be a natural progression to cooperate even more,” he added. “They, like us, are committed to doing the right thing in the community.”
The partnership calls for Bay Country Communications to continue to serve its cable customers and construct fiber services to customers that are “already in the construction pipeline.” Choptank will acquire those broadband accounts as they come online, according to the press release. The companies declined to provide further details on the financial arrangements of the deal.
Once customer connections are made, Choptank Fiber will provide connected customers with its high-speed broadband services, including Wi-Fi 6, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), support for video streaming, and its CommandIQ suite of Internet management services at no additional cost, according to the press release.
The partnership is a win-win deal for both organizations, said McGaha.
Specifically, the win for Bay Country Communications is the ability to fold its customer base into a newly built, world-class network and share in that success. This in turn allows Bay Country Communications to concentrate on building out new fiber to customer locations without the need to build a massive backhaul network, he explained.
The win for Choptank Fiber is the ability to obtain assets and provide world-class service in its service territory without having to overbuild another provider. The end game is to migrate all of Bay Country’s existing customers to Choptank Fiber’s all-fiber broadband network, McGaha added.
Another advantage Choptank Fiber and Bay Country Communications share is that both companies are members of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MdBC), which was created in 2006 to bring world-class Internet services to rural and underserved locations in Maryland. Both companies have access to backbone and middle-mile fiber under the private/public partnership of the MdBC, according to the press release. McGaha is Chairman of the Board of the MdBC and Brian Roche, Chief Technical Officer of Bay Country Communications, is Vice-Chairman of the MdBC.
Broadband fiber partnerships of all kinds have enjoyed growing appeal to an ever-widening range of service providers and cooperatives since as far back as 2011. In 2020 and 2021, telcos were teaming up with once rival electric companies to deploy fiber and expand broadband services to customers in rural areas of South Carolina and Indiana. With their unique partnership, Bay Country Communications and Choptank Fiber have added a team consisting of an electric cooperative’s fiber subsidiary and a TV, voice and Internet services provider to that list.
Regardless of their specific goals or they type of service providers involved, partnerships like these help to deploy broadband services to underserved and unserved customers faster. They also lower the costs of construction and service delivery by sharing existing infrastructure and costs for new build outs. Partners also enjoy the ability to share their different areas of expertise with each other.