The latest example of a rural electric cooperative working with a broadband service provider to bring broadband to unserved rural areas comes from Wisper ISP and Sho-Me Technologies, the broadband subsidiary of Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative. Wisper ISP will use Sho-Me’s network to support deployments in Missouri, where both companies operate.
Wisper ISP is a fixed wireless broadband provider that was the second biggest winner in the Connect America Fund CAF II auction that awarded rural broadband funding. The company, which was awarded $220 million in the auction, is also a participant in the Microsoft Airband project, gaining fixed wireless and other expertise from the IT giant.
Wisper Sho-Me Deal
Sho-Me Technologies operates a 4,200-route mile fiber network that apparently will provide backhaul for Wisper ISP’s fixed wireless offering. Although some rural electric cooperatives are getting into the business of providing broadband directly to residential customers, a look at the Sho-Me website reveals that the company focuses primarily on the wholesale, enterprise and education markets.
The deal with Sho-Me would appear to be a logical one for Wisper ISP, as Sho-Me’s network covers the sorts of rural areas where Wisper plans to deploy service. Wisper’s CAF award is for deployments in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as Missouri.
Rural broadband agreements between broadband providers and rural electric cooperatives have taken a variety of forms and seem to be on the rise.
Since the beginning of the year, we have seen agreements between Cincinnati Bell and Butler Rural Electric Cooperative in Ohio and between Smithville Communications and SCI REMC in Indiana. In addition, Georgia’s Diverse Power Inc. has made plans to purchase fixed wireless broadband provider South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority.