The availability of high-speed internet in Warren County has long been a topic of concern among residents.
Like a lot of the country, some of our most rural residents are consistently at a disadvantage when it comes to broadband access. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting work-from-home and nontraditional instruction requirements have only deepened the digital divide.
Now more than ever, high-speed internet access is a crucial resource for families and businesses alike. However, rural broadband is a challenging task. If it were a profitable endeavor, the large private companies would already provide the service.
Before COVID-19 was even imagined, the Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. board of directors heard the call for high-speed internet from our members loud and clear. Though our primary mission is to provide safe, reliable electricity, we knew there was an opportunity for potential partners to provide high-speed internet services to our members who are underserved or unserved. North Central Telephone Cooperative, a local telephone cooperative, saw that same need in Warren County as it was rolling out its high-speed internet service in neighboring Allen County.
We’ve all heard a lot of talking about rural broadband service. WRECC and NCTC have taken action, bringing our respective strengths to the table and developing a pilot project in southeast Warren County. Because both WRECC and NCTC are local cooperatives with similar values, the focus on serving our members has enabled this strong and successful partnership to launch this pilot.
The pilot location was chosen based on two factors: proximity to NCTC’s current location and infrastructure that mirrors our service territory in terms of population density. This pilot will give us a strong picture of the feasibility of the model, based on member product response, financial assumptions and the strength of the business relationship.
Currently, the pilot is performing well with nearly 50% of the members in the pilot area having signed up for service. However, to be fully successful, we must have continued growth in the pilot areas. And we must have successful pilots before we can expand our efforts.
With the prevalence of NTI, virtual schooling and work-from-home arrangements, we understand the increased demand for high-speed internet. At this point, the most important thing Warren County residents can do to help us expand our pilot area is sign up for service and encourage others to do the same.
To do that, please visit www.fiberforwarren.com. While you’re there, you can learn more about NCTC and the products it offers as well as check on the status of the Warren County pilot effort. Together, we’re making things happen in Warren County!
– McDonald is president and CEO of Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. McClanahan is president and CEO of North Central Telephone Cooperative.