Co-ops, TVEC and Rural Broadband
Rural broadband internet access is an important topic for both rural residents and economic development professionals, as the digital world becomes a cornerstone of modern life. Gaining access to high speed internet service promises the opportunities of urban dwellers to rural areas, prompting comparisons to the original push for electric cooperatives in the 1930s and 40s.
Electric Co-ops and Broadband
Several electrical co-ops around the country are actively providing broadband internet service, and many more are in various stages of development toward that goal.
Co-ops are using several different technological solutions to provide service, and each one must develop a model that suits their membership needs, geographic limitations, infrastructure costs, existing service provider coverage and many other factors.
Through our many contacts in other co-ops, NRECA, training events and trade publications we are watching the process unfold and seeing how broadband service might work in our area, while also listening to the needs of our members.
Texas Senate Bill 14
In 2019 Texas legislators passed a law (SB 14) making it possible for Texas electric co-ops to use their existing electrical right-of-way easements to provide broadband internet service.
Co-ops must provide written notice of intent to provide such service to landowners, and the landowners may respond to deny the change in the easement.
While this clears a major hurdle for providing rural broadband services, there are many others that must be thoughtfully considered.
TVEC and Broadband (November, 2019)
While we are diligently watching progress and developments regarding rural broadband, TVEC does not have any current plans to provide internet services.
There are many preliminary steps under consideration including market and feasibility studies and feedback from TVEC members. However, it is too early to say if providing broadband services might work for TVEC, and if so, when it could happen.
Based on current estimates and the experiences of other co-ops who are further along in this process, providing broadband service to the TVEC service area could require an investment of $200 million or more. That level of financial commitment means we owe it to members to be very thorough in preparation, planning and ensuring that such a venture would likely be a viable and successful business.