Greg Santoro, NRTC’s senior VP and chief marketing and strategy officer, wrote the featured column for the Spring 2018 issue of CFC’s Solutions Plus publication. In “Broadband Communications Investment,” Santoro covers the several reasons why rural electric cooperatives should examine broadband internet technology, not just for local community access, but also for future utility systems.
“Many co-ops begin by building a high-capacity secure backbone to connect remote offices and substations. Once in place, the backbone can support future uses like advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distributed energy resources (DERs) and other down-line sensors and devices,” he said.
Smart grid technologies are advancing a rapid pace. Where one-way meter reading systems of a decade ago could operate at slower data rates, modern utilities require broadband and near real-time, two-way communications. “Picture thousands of distribution automation, demand response, voltage control, power quality and other components on cooperative lines, all requiring low latency, dynamic and secure two-way connectivity,” Santoro said.
He advises co-ops to begin by considering how to deploy a broadband backbone. “Fiber delivers the most secure, reliable, high throughput and lowest latency communications for utility network needs. With enough capacity for future purposes, a fiber backhaul system typically provides cooperatives the best long-term option,” he said.
With a backbone in place, co-ops can refine their strategies based on their local geographic and economic conditions. In some places, fiber to the home (FTTH) will be the best solution. In other areas, wireless links at broadband speeds could provide at least a temporary solution at the right price point.