Has the Time Come for United to Welcome High-Speed Broadband?
Sept. 24, 2019—United Cooperative Services’ Board of Directors elected unanimously at its regular monthly meeting Monday to proceed with the development of a fiber-optic, high-speed broadband network designed to serve the internet needs of its members throughout its 14-county service territory in North Texas.
Nearly a third of the cooperative’s 61,000 members voted in a ballot initiative to determine interest in their cooperative providing high-speed broadband internet service to its members. Of that voting total, 91 percent responded positively to a proposition posed in June and July asking whether United should consider embarking on such an effort. The proposition drew one of the largest membership responses of any previous ballot measures in the cooperative’s history.
There's a new day dawning in United's service territory. And we need our members to tell us what they want.
In United’s 14-county service territory, about 87 percent of United members currently lack access to affordable and/or reliable 25 Mbps high-speed broadband internet service. That is the minimum standard broadband internet speed, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to adequately serve a single user or multiple users with light internet use.
The digital divide that exists here and elsewhere has prompted federal support through a partnership of federal agencies and national organizations.
Federal grants and low-interest loans have partially helped not-for-profit electric co-ops finance the capital investment needed for broadband build-out in rural areas, and regulatory relief from the FCC has allowed co-ops to enter a domain once reserved for primary telecommunications providers.
Encouraged by the support, electric cooperatives are stepping in to provide their members high-speed broadband service where no other providers will. Approximately 90 electric cooperatives across the U.S. (about 11 percent) now provide broadband service to their members. Another 200 are studying the viability of expanding such service to their members—including United.
After hearing frequent member discontent with poor or no internet connectivity during regular community meetings and other cooperative gatherings over the last several years, coupled with appeals for United to seriously consider developing and providing a superior alternative, an objective was developed in 2017 to launch a preliminary study to determine whether the cooperative could feasibly deploy a broadband network that could provide competitively priced high-speed internet service to every member who wanted it.
Now, we need to hear from you, our members, to know if this is a service you want your co-op to provide to you.
Watch this page for more on this exciting and evolving story.