Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 37 quickly mobilize and compete. Gaining market share against an incumbent is a challenge for any new entrant in the telecom business, even one that has had a presence in a community for decades. Moreover, although every household uses electricity, not everyone adopts broadband, so in many cases co-ops must educate consumers about why they need broadband in the first place and then win customers over from the competition. en there are operating challenges and regulatory issues. Broadband technologies change fast, and regular training is a fact of life in the telecom business. Broadband providers face regulations that address everything from the actual deployment of their network facilities to the manner in which they manage their provision of service to customers. In addition, providers must deal with federal and state regulatory authorities. Finally, in rural areas in particular, providers face the challenge of transporting increasing amounts of data to and from remote rural locations. Users who stream Netflix or conduct business rely on secure, unfailing connections to carry massive amounts of data from their homes and businesses to servers that may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Transporting this data demands specific expertise and includes significant costs even beyond the local network. THE PROMISE OF PARTNERSHIPS at's why some electric co-ops have turned to rural telcos for their expertise in providing broadband services. For example, Arrowhead Electric Cooperative in Lutsen, Minnesota, built a fiber-to-the-home network and then contracted with Consolidated Telephone Cooperative to deliver services and provide technical support. And the Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation in Franklin, Indiana, built its FTTH network as a joint venture with NineStar Connect (which is both a telephone co-op and an electric co-op) based on the fiber backbone that Johnson County REMC built to connect its substations. Indeed, partnerships between small rural telcos and electric cooperatives are uniquely positioned to succeed where others have failed in reaching wide swaths of the rural United States. Electric co-ops are well-known, established and focused on delivering services to rural consumers in many communities that lack broadband. Small telcos share the same rural roots along with track records of technological innovation and success in rural broadband. Tackling something as complex and challenging as rural broadband calls for an organization that has a proven track record rather than a startup or a company with experience only in settled markets. Of course, a partnership won't work in every case, and each possible partnership could look different based upon the needs and capabilities of the parties involved – but knowing the electric cooperatives and the rural telcos as well as I do from years of working with both, I see their respective strengths and the significant promise in such opportunities. If these two groups working together and sharing a rural commitment can't get it done, I don't know who can or will! v Hilda Legg, a former administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, is a consultant and an advocate for rural broadband and economic development. She is the vice chairman of Broad B and Communities . Reach her at Several rural electric co-ops have already entered into successful broadband partnerships with rural telephone companies.

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