Rural electric cooperatives and the communities they serve want and need broadband service. High-speed internet is essential for access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Without it, rural communities struggle in America’s digital economy. Using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) estimates that more than 6 million households served by electric cooperatives lack broadband access. Over a 20-year period, the absence of internet service will lead to $68 million in lost economic value for those households. Multiple government reports have concluded that low population density stands in the way of rural broadband deployment. Deploying broadband in vast, remote, territories is expensive and there are far fewer customers to defray those high costs.
Citizens Electric Corporation (CEC) offers internet service providers (ISP) within its six-county service area access to extend coverage through a makeready licensed agreement. This facilitates coverage to more Citizens' members while leveraging the use of existing electric distribution infrastructure. CEC is providing new pole attachments including engineering and construction of larger poles for fiber-to-the-home through local ISPs. These ISPs work with CEC surveyors and engineers ensuring that strength and safety requirements are met. To date, Citizens has approved pole attachments representing around 75 miles of electric distribution. "We believe that existing ISPS have the expertise and equipment to deliver their services much more quickly and cost-effectively than Citizens could from a start-up business position," says Van Robinson, Citizens Electric Corporation Chief Executive Officer. CEC has currently executed phase one with one internet service provider and has plans for phase two and working with additional ISPs.