The Time Has Come for United to Provide High-Speed Broadband
There's a new day dawning in United's service territory.
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.
Encouraged by the support by September's member vote, United is stepping in to provide its members high-speed broadband service in a way 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 develop and provide a superior alternative. We now stand poised to deploy a broadband network that will provide competitively priced high-speed internet service to every member who wants it.
Watch this page for more on this exciting and evolving story.
Questions or Comments About Broadband?
United Cooperative Services will build a fiber network throughout our service territory. The project will enhance our Smart Grid technology by connecting substations and other infrastructure with fiber. This fiber connection also will provide members with an opportunity for an affordable and reliable high-speed broadband internet connection.
Broadband internet service is defined as 25 Mbps service and greater. It is the most desirable form of internet access because of its high access speeds. It can be accessed in four different forms: fiber optic, DSL (or Digital Subscriber Line), cable and satellite. The old dial-up connection is the only non-broadband internet service available. DSL may be faster than dial-up, but it does not typically provide broadband service up to the minimum 25 Mbps definition of broadband. Fiber optic is the superior way to receive high-speed internet service, but its availability is severely limited in United's service territory.
A recent advancement in broadband internet technology, fiber optic provides super-fast speeds for surfing the internet. Its name comes from the use of plastic or glass cables, which allow for faster data transfer compared to the standard copper wires which are used in regular broadband connections. Optical fibers permit transmission over longer distance and at higher bandwidths (data rates) than were cables.
Fiber to the home (FTTH) is a relatively new and fast-growing method of providing significantly higher bandwidth to consumers and thereby enables more robust video, internet and voice services.
An estimated 87 percent of United members currently do not have access to affordable and/or reliable 25 Mbps high-speed broadband internet service, according to an independent third-party business plan study. United's Smart Grid technology would benefit from a reliable method to communicate between offices, substations and other infrastructure.
Fiber is the best medium available to ensure consistent, fast speeds and we already have the infrastructure (poles and substations) in place. Since we need fiber for our business, it is only fitting that we provide our members with a high-speed broadband internet option. We anticipated the telecommunication industry would respond to our member's needs.
However, it seems many telecommunication companies are only willing to extend fiber to areas that provide the greatest returns for their stakeholders. In some areas, that may be never, or it may require a long time. An affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband internet service is as important to our membership today as electricity was 80 years ago. Our responsibility is to enhance the quality of life of our members.
While the pricing schedule is yet to be determined, members can expect competitively priced service plans (without sales gimmicks) that are delivered in tandem with United's superior brand of reliability and service.
Besides high-speed broadband access, United will offer telephone service through fiber. Members can choose from a multitude of streaming video services available today (Hulu or YouTube TV as examples).
Fiber optic-to-home service could be provided to as many service territory residences as possible with a few remote areas receiving service from the latest high-speed wireless technology. The broadband service may also overlap outside of United's service territory.
We do know we will offer at least anywhere from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) service to members with fiber-to-the-home. We have set a goal of providing at least 100 Mbps service to fixed wireless members. Based on today's technology, this will be the best service available in these fixed wireless areas.
Yes, you should allow for conduit near the electrical entrance to your home. If you have questions, or to discuss details, please:
We ask that all members continue to be patient as we begin the 5-year build-out of United's broadband service. The network involves installing more than 4,250 miles of fiber-optic cable along United's existing electrical path (which took 80 years to build to today' current service area). If stretched from the center of United's service territory, this would stretch all the way to Brazil in South America. Variables such as weather and unforeseen issues may impact project timelines. Rest assured, we will deliver broadband as quickly and as safely as possible.
The answer depends on how far apart the buildings are, but it is possible one modem will work. Using a WiFi booster or running an Ethernet cable between the two buildings could allow one connection to serve multiple buildings.
The internet and VoIP telephone service we may provide will require electricity.
United will have an extremely reliable network. Four unique internet sources will connect at the head ends in Burleson and Stephenville. Those four separate head-end connections not only will provide redundancies for improved reliability, they also will be Tier 1 ISP internet connections (better quality fiber pipelines) provided from top internet service providers.
Once service is available in your area, we suggest you cancel service after we have come into your home to complete and test your connection. Our process installs a fiber drop on the outside of your home about 1-2 months prior to a live connection so you will not want to cancel too soon and risk no service.
Electric cooperatives across the United States are stepping in to provide their members high-speed broadband internet service where no other providers will. Currently, about 90 electric cooperatives across the U.S. (about 11 percent) provide high-speed broadband internet service to their members. About 200 more electric cooperatives are studying the viability of providing such a service to their members (including United).
Estimated total cost of the project to deliver a targeted fiber optic download speed of 100 Mbps or greater to the majority of members in United's territory is near $200 million.
When we encounter questions with easements, we ask our members and landowners to understand that broadband internet will be a game-changer for tens of thousands of people in our area. Their willingness to grant easements is no different than when landowners agreed to let cooperatives bring electricity to rural America.
When United extends broadband services to member homes and businesses, it may become necessary for property owners to execute new easements that specifically allow United to provide high-speed broadband internet service. Such a process is critical to the deployment logistics for a new broadband network.
"It’s a quality of life issue, certainly. The only internet service a great many of our members can access today is a lot slower and more expensive than it is for their distant urban neighbors. And if they are frustrated by the fact they reside in a marginal zone, then you can imagine how the absence of that amenity would affect community economic prospects. People and businesses are moving away from places, or choosing not to move to locations where internet service isn’t available. Communities without high-speed internet access have a hard time competing for or holding on to needed commerce."Cameron Smallwood, United CEO