Broadband for everyone would be an excellent prospect. However, it is not as easy as just running fiber and plugging into high-speed broadband. There are multiple steps to consider before even getting to a point to make a decision. The Six Steps to a Broadband Vote:
- Initial research
- Assessing need
- Regulatory assessments
- Feasibility study
- Determine the business model
- Trustee vote on pursuing the project
FreeState has had discussions with the trustees about the possibility of bringing broadband to our members. Still, after lengthy talks and initial research, it was determined that a project of this size is not economically feasible.
To undertake a broadband project, FreeState would need significant capital investment. This investment is not only at the cooperative level, but at the member level as well. Members would need to invest in technology and equipment to make in-home broadband a reality. Some members may be willing to do that. Still, on a cooperative level, electric service members would need to subsidize this project.
There may be grants available to assist or even federal funding. Still, those are not always guaranteed, and in some cases, the cooperative may not qualify for this type of financing. Current members’ capital would have to be used for the project, threatening electric rates’ stability. In turn, this would jeopardize FreeState’s mission and commitment to our members to provide safe, reliable and affordable service.
The bottom line is that a broadband project takes time and is a multimillion-dollar project. Even with a strict budget, these projects can cost up to 20% more than budgeted due to technology’s evolutionary speed.
FreeState understands that some members lack access to high-speed internet. In the current climate of working and learning from home, it is vital to make our communities thrive. As a cooperative, we are open to looking at partnerships or other avenues to assist our members. We also want to be responsible for the capital investments our members trust us with to maintain electrical service.
Broadband is not something FreeState can invest in right now. Still, it is something we continue to monitor and discuss internally.