NRTC last week introduced the “Rural Electric Cooperative Broadband Benchmarking Report.” The 47-page report provides a user-friendly summary of data rural electric cooperatives need to plan broadband projects, covering fiber optic and wireless technologies, construction costs, operational procedures and much more.
The report draws on data from a survey of 36 electric cooperatives that have built broadband networks and have serving their communities for at least one year. They share their experiences from every step in the construction process and how they handled various challenges.
“One of the most gratifying aspects of working with rural electric cooperatives is the commitment to helping each other. Because we’re all driven by shared values and a sense of service, we are deeply connected,” NRTC CEO Tim Bryan said in a message introducing the report. “That’s evident in times of natural disaster as well as the willingness of co-ops to share lessons learned to benefit those coming after them.”
NRTC asked co-ops about how they approached the broadband business. We got some interesting responses:
- Fiber is the technology of choice. Ninety-four percent of our respondents said they have connected their substations to fiber backbones; 92 percent have begun offering fiber internet connections to the home, and 81 percent say that fiber is part of their smart grid solution.
- Most say they already consider their investments successful. Ninety-two percent said that members responded favorably in follow-up consumer surveys and 88 percent said they got higher take rates than expected. Median internal ROI was 10 percent.
- Cooperatives have begun or plan to begin offering a long list of futuristic services using their broadband capacities, including AMI, distribution automation, distributed energy resource (DER) connectivity, demand response, irrigation control/precision agriculture and private wireless networks.
Keep in mind that all co-ops are different and may not experience all the things experienced by the report participants. It may be a good idea to take the extra step of evaluating individual circumstances. Feasibility studies by NRTC Broadband Solutions have a high industry reputation and could help answer additional broadband questions. For more information, NRTC members should contact their Regional Business Managers.