Electric cooperative telecom initiatives gained further momentum this week with the news that four electric co-op broadband providers would offer voice services using a cloud-based solution from Alianza.

Three of the co-ops – Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative; NEXT, powered by North Arkansas Electric Cooperative; and OzarksGo, the telecom subsidiary of Ozarks Electric Cooperative — had not previously offered voice or broadband service. The fourth company – Co-Mo Connect – previously offered broadband and voice service, with the voice service delivered over a wholesale hosted softswitch-based VoIP solution.

Electric Co-op Broadband
For electric co-ops to offer broadband is not a new idea. Some electric co-ops have offered broadband for a decade or more. Such companies are well positioned to offer broadband because doing so fits their mission of serving their communities – and their existing poles and other infrastructure can help minimize the cost of deploying fiber networks, which also can support smart grid initiatives. Electric co-op broadband seems to be gaining additional momentum lately, however.

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The trend is likely driven by a variety of factors. One is that broadband deployment costs continue to decrease. And offerings such as Alianza’s minimize the investment required to also layer on voice service, thereby maximizing total revenue potential.

Also fueling the trend is increased availability of government funding for non-traditional broadband providers. For example, electric companies were among the winners of funding in the Rural Broadband Experiments program – and electric co-ops also will have the option of bidding in the reverse auction of Connect America funding rejected by some of the large price cap carriers to bring broadband to unserved areas.

A Familiar Name
Co-Mo Comm’s name may be familiar to Telecompetitor readers, as we have frequently covered the company, which announced plans in 2014 to deploy gigabit infrastructure

“Our subscribers have the most cutting edge broadband access,” said Andy Burger, general manager of Co-Mo Connect, in the Alianza press release. Adopting the cloud-based offering “benefits Co-Mo operationally and financially and we’ll be able to deliver a better customer experience for our subscribers,” he added. 

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