What is broadband
Broadband is defined as an internet service that is reliable with actual download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.
The Current Level of Access
The FCC reports that more than 24 million Americans lack access to this essential service. Of those households, 80% live in rural communities. However, many of the surveys of coverage are based on information by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and American usage is closer to 113 million people not using the internet at true broadband speeds.
The disparity in broadband access in rural communities versus urban and suburban areas is caused mainly by a lower density of homes and businesses which requires more infrastructure over a greater distance to provide the services, increasing the cost per customer served.
This disparity reduces the quality delivery of services by local pharmacies, doctor’s offices, public libraries and coffee shops, often the local bandwidth [The transmission capacity of a telecommunication system.] savior, run at less than broadband speeds in rural areas. This situation almost wholly rules out Telemedicine, video e-learning, and video streaming.
But why is it this way?
The Current Broadband Network
The national telecommunications infrastructure is made of networks of cables, fibers, cell towers, and satellites. Most of these assets are privately owned and in urban areas. The expense to run fiber and replace traditional coaxial and copper services is great for large telecoms and ISPs. It is most efficient to upgrade regions where customers are tightly packed. More customers served at shorter distances and in more affluent areas vs more fiber over new poles, conduit, and new devices. Even when a private provider goes into fiber services, they often only run fiber to the neighborhood hub or the curb. A premium service that still uses outdated cables to the customer location.
Public sector institutions, such as Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corporation (AVECC), are making strides to expand broadband deployment and push innovation in rural sectors of the United States. With the backing of the FCC, many incentives are provided to push this advantage with cooperatives and other municipalities.
Now is the time for a change.
The Fiber Network Future
AVECC utilizes mainline fiber to monitor their power systems to improve reporting and outage response. Reporting and monitoring utilize a tiny percentage of the capacity on a fiber-optic cable. This unused bandwidth is called Dark Fiber. As our mainline fiber is already passing to and through AVECC serviced areas, it can act as a backbone for the transport of internet services that, in turn, can be connected to member’s properties.
Much of an internet service’s network must cross through public rights-of-way, along poles, or conduit along streets and highways. It is only natural that Wave Rural Connect (Wave) and AVECC use existing poles and right of way to reduce the infrastructure and costs needed to deploy and expand broadband internet systems required by private ISPs. This savings allows Wave to provide internet services over one cable type, fiber, and pass less of the cost on to the internet service itself.
Wave is taking this one step further than traditional telecoms, we are bringing the Fiber To The Home (FTTH). When an AVECC member purchases service from Wave, we will run a fiber-optic cable to and into your building. The modem directly connected to fiber and any separate router, TV Set-Top-Box, DVR, and home phone connect via ethernet or WiFi.
History Repeats Itself
In the 1930s the American population was too sparse and the geography too expansive to effectively provide electricity and telephone. As a result, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936 to enable rural electric and telephone companies to provide services to the greater population.
In turn, AVECC was created in 1937 by a group of farmers and businessmen to ensure rural areas would be provided with electricity. Other utilities decided it wasn’t economically feasible to sell electricity where there were only one or two meters per mile of line. To ensure our rural communities would enjoy the same quality of life as urban areas, AVECC’s original members worked passionately to gather the funds needed to provide electricity to homes and farms in the River Valley. The first 57 miles of power lines were energized in December of 1938, providing electric service to 114 meters. Today, AVECC has over $340M in electric plants and serves more than 59,000 meters.
It was a tremendous success across the US: Within 20 years, 65 percent of farmers had a telephone and 96 percent of them had electricity.
We have a similar problem with rural communications today with broadband internet. In 2018, the same vision that motivated rural electrification and the betterment of our communities inspired AVECC to create Wave Rural Connect and to approve phase one of a system-wide fiber build-out to all AVECC members. The AVECC fiber infrastructure will allow Wave Rural Connect to provide game-changing broadband internet at lightning-fast speed to EVERY member.
Not only will fiber be faster, so will our goals. Wave Rural Connect and AVECC will have service available to all membership by 2024 — that’s six years.
We are passionate about Rural America, and we are passionate about improving the communities we serve. This is an exciting new chapter in AVECC’s story, and we are proud you are a part of it.