Two co-ops partner to deliver broadband to underserved Cook County
On Feb. 8, 2011, Consolidated Telephone Co. (CTC) signed on to help a small electric cooperative in Lutsen begin a new adventure that would deliver fiber optics to its 4,000 members.
Arrowhead Electric Cooperative Inc. (AEC) is a power company in Cook County that has had little or no access to high-speed Internet and very spotty wireless service. The community needed a solution so AEC stepped up to the plate by applying for a stimulus package that would give them funding to build a fiber network to deliver much needed Internet services to businesses and homes.
One challenge presented itself to the small electric co-op as they had no experience in the telecommunications industry. That’s when a call to CTC created a unique and lasting partnership that made possible the delivery of services to the Arrowhead, CTC reported. CTC has more than 60 years experience in the telecommunications industry and has been deploying their own fiber network in the Brainerd Lakes area since 2006.
With the partnership, CTC has been able to assist AEC in all facets of its fiber project from engineering to sales and marketing. The Brainerd company worked with Arrowhead on engineering plans to help install equipment and begin deploying services. Arrowhead customers will have their phone service delivered to them from the CTC office in Brainerd by using the same switch that CTC uses for their customers’ phone service. By collaborating on this project, Arrowhead Electric can save money by utilizing CTC equipment and gain the expertise of the CTC employees.
On Oct. 18, 2013, Arrowhead Electric hosted an open house and unveiled a 100-MB connection from the CTC office in Brainerd to Lutsen. More than 300 customers attended this event and hooked up their laptops, tablets and smartphones to try out the new high speed connection.
This partnership has been a positive example of how two rural coops can collaborate to deliver these much needed services to rural America, CTC reported. Their efforts were highlighted at a national conference held in Las Vegas in 2012 by Calix when both CTC and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative received the prestigious Innovation Award for their partnership.