Thirteen Arkansas electric cooperatives have come together to establish Diamond State Networks, a fiber network that according to a press release, covers more than 64% of the state’s land mass.
The network was created by interconnecting existing networks operated by the 13 companies. Plans include offering wholesale connectivity on the network to other service providers, as well as further network expansion.
Collectively, the companies have invested or plan to invest more than $1.66 billion in fiber network infrastructure, which will serve nearly 600,000 potential customer locations.
The co-managing members of Diamond State Networks are Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric, and Jeremiah Sloan, president and CEO of Craighead Electric.
“By bringing these networks together, we’re investing to build a middle mile network for long-term, far-reaching affordability and delivering high-performance connectivity to every corner of our state,” said Johnson in the press release. “Ultimately it will offer local internet service providers better access and capacity to deliver their services, and better opportunities to directly serve businesses with reliable connectivity wherever they are. We’re making it affordable to reach more areas with best-in-class technology to close the gaps from past limitations.”
The press release about the establishment of Diamond State Networks highlights expected benefits to the state.
The network “will have an immensely positive impact on the state’s economy by helping to make Arkansas a place where people want to live and do business for years to come,” the release says.
An Uncommon Network
It has become quite common for rural telecom providers in a state to interconnect their fiber networks to establish statewide networks. But I’m not aware of any other statewide fiber network comprised totally of electric cooperatives.
Electric cooperatives have gotten much more involved in providing broadband service in recent years, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see electric cooperatives in other states getting together to establish rural fiber networks.
The 13 electric cooperative members that comprise Diamond State Networks include:
OzarksGo — based in Fayetteville, a telecommunications subsidiary of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, offering all-fiber gigabit internet and premium television and telephone services to Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma.
Clay County Connect – based in Corning, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clay County Electric Cooperative Corporation (CCECC), serving members in Clay, Randolph and Greene counties.
Farmers Electric Cooperative – based in Newport, serving members in Independence, Jackson, Poinsett and Woodruff counties.
Petit Jean Fiber – based in Clinton, a subsidiary of Petit Jean Electric Cooperative, serving members in central Arkansas.
Enlightened by Woodruff Electric– headquartered in Forrest City, serving parts of Woodruff, Prairie, Monroe, Cross, St. Francis, Lee and Phillips counties in eastern Arkansas.
NEXT Powered by NAEC – headquartered in Salem, a subsidiary of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, bringing state-of-the-art broadband internet, telephone and television services to members in eight north Arkansas counties.
Wave Rural Connect – based in Ozark, a subsidiary of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative, serving members in the Arkansas river valley and into parts of nearby Oklahoma.
Arkansas Fiber Network (AFN) – is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives. Inc., the statewide association of the 17 distribution electric cooperatives in Arkansas. Arkansas Fiber Network was formed to provide middle-mile fiber in support of the distribution cooperatives’ broadband efforts, as well as those of Diamond State Networks.
Four States Fiber Internet – headquartered in Texarkana, a subsidiary of Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative, offering high-speed internet to members in Miller, Howard, Sevier, Columbia, Lafayette, Hempstead, Little River and Polk counties in Arkansas; Bowie and Cass Counties in Texas; and McCurtain County in Oklahoma.
empower, Delivered by Craighead Electric – based in Jonesboro, a wholly owned subsidiary of Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation, serving customers throughout northeast Arkansas.
MCEC Fiber – based in Blytheville, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mississippi County Electric Cooperative, serving members in northern Mississippi County, Arkansas.
South Central Connect – based in Arkadelphia, a subsidiary of South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative, serving members in Clark, Hot Spring, Pike, Montgomery and Nevada counties.
Connect2First – based in Jacksonville, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Electric, serving members throughout central and southeastern Arkansas.