States look to electric utilities for broadband connections
New York, Arkansas and Florida and their partners are taking advantage of utilities’ existing fiber-optic networks to spur middle-mile broadband connections.
The New York Power Authority will be working with Sherburne Electric, a NYPA municipal electricity customer, to use NYPA’s existing fiber network for the middle-mile connection as Sherburne designs and builds out fiber networks to its 1,800 homes and businesses.
The project is part of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $1 Billion ConnectALL initiative that aims to transform the state's digital infrastructure and deliver affordable broadband to millions of residents and businesses. Under ConnectALL, the state will use over $1 billion in public and private investments to connect New Yorkers in rural and urban areas statewide to broadband.
“Using the Power Authority’s transmission network to help connect more New Yorkers to broadband is a winning statewide strategy that allows us to maximize the use of our equipment, share our technical expertise and strengthen our customer relationships all to benefit more New Yorkers, specifically those living and working in some of the most remote areas of our great state,” New York Power Authority Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said in a release.
In Arkansas, more than a dozen electric cooperatives have partnered to form a new wholesale broadband provider that will leverage their fiber-optic networks to accelerate statewide broadband deployments.
Diamond State Networks aims to provide access to 1.25 million rural Arkansans with a combined network covering more than 64% of the state’s land mass and more than 50,000 miles of fiber lines, DSN officials said in their announcement. The network backbone is formed by 13 member-owned Arkansas electric cooperatives and their fiber network subsidiaries.
Together, the electric coops will invest more than $1.66 billion in middle-mile fiber-optic networks that will serve nearly 600,000 potential customer locations.
“By bringing these networks together, we’re investing to build a middle mile network for long-term, far-reaching affordability and delivering high-performance connectivity to every corner of our state,” said Mitchell Johnson, co-managing member of Diamond State Networks. “Ultimately it will offer local internet service providers better access and capacity to deliver their services, and better opportunities to directly serve businesses with reliable connectivity wherever they are. We’re making it affordable to reach more areas with best-in-class technology to close the gaps from past limitations.”
In Florida, Tri-County Electric Cooperative will be working with broadband provider Conexon Connect on a $65 million project to deploy a 2,400-mile fiber-to-the-home network within the next few years.
Conexon was one of the top bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction, and it has also partnered with electric co-ops in Georgia, Colorado, Louisiana and New Hampshire to build fiber broadband networks.
Conexon Partner Jonathan Chambers told Fierce Telecom that there are over 5 million miles of electric distribution lines across the U.S. and co-ops own about half of that. “To truly close the digital divide and not just wave at it, you’ve gotta get to the places no one else will build. Without co-ops I don’t think it would ever happen. With co-ops it’s got a fighting chance,” he said.
NEXT STORY: A step closer to seamless transit