Electric cooperative gigabit is becoming more commonplace, as news today about four electric cooperative gigabit deployments illustrates.

The four cooperatives include two Tennessee companies (Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative), along with two Alabama cooperatives (North Alabama Electric Cooperative and Tombigbee Electric Cooperative.)

All four companies said they would work with engineering service provider FiberRise and equipment provider Adtran on their gigabit deployments.

Electric Cooperative Gigabit
Electric cooperatives, like telecom cooperatives, tend to be community-focused – and when their communities lack high-speed broadband, they often undertake deployments on their own or through partnerships with neighboring telecom co-ops. Rural communities have become increasingly aware of the importance of modern broadband infrastructure to support economic development and for quality of life.

The names of the two Alabama companies may be familiar to Telecompetitor readers, as we’ve covered both companies before.  North Alabama Electric Cooperative used broadband stimulus funding back in 2011 for a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, and Tombigbee recently won a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for remote portions of a five-phase fiber deployment initiative.

In some cases, electric cooperatives are able to use fiber broadband deployments to also support their own smart grid initiatives, as those initiatives demand modern communications infrastructure. But some electric cooperatives – including Tombigbee — are undertaking fiber deployment projects independently of any smart grid initiatives.

The state of Tennessee has seen a rise in electric cooperative fiber deployments in the last year or so, since legislators voted to allow electric cooperatives to offer retail broadband services. In addition to Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, another Tennessee company that made the news this week was Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, which said it would work with United Communications, a neighboring rural telecom provider, on a FTTH project.

In recent years, it has become increasingly common for companies deploying FTTH to support speeds up to a gigabit per second. Although some people argue that consumers don’t need such high speeds, the additional investment to support the higher-speed service is relatively low and broadband providers are finding that gigabit deployments have a “halo effect,” generating interest in broadband in general, even if interested parties ultimately subscribe to lower speed service.

It’s also important to recognize that while farms may be considered residences for official government broadband reporting purposes, they are actually businesses –  and these businesses can see substantial benefits from high-speed broadband services, which can support precision agriculture and other agricultural IoT technologies.

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