Craighead Electric's Jeremiah Sloan on lighting up Arkansas with fiber

NASHVILLE – Fiber Connect 2022 – Craighead Electric Cooperative Corp. (CECC), an 85-year-old electrical co-op in rural Arkansas, first started delivering fiber in 2018. Initially, it was for internal purposes: "We needed to communicate with critical electrical infrastructure out on the grid," said Jeremiah Sloan, CEO of CECC.

But the realization that 44% of its membership lacked access to Internet service of 25/3 Mbit/s led CECC to start delivering fiber to customers as an ISP called Empower Broadband.

"Fast forward to today, we've got about 4,000 miles of fiber, and we have 13,000 subscribers and roughly 25,000 premises passed," said Sloan.

Sloan joined Light Reading at the Fiber Connect conference to discuss CECC's work in rural Arkansas and a new partnership between Craighead Electric and other electric co-ops across the state to deliver wholesale fiber.

"Our primary mission with that organization is to make Arkansas the most connected state in the country," he said.

Here are just a few topics discussed in this video:

  • CECC's history and role as a broadband provider (00:50)
  • What's different about getting broadband from an electric co-op (03:00)
  • Why CECC "mothballed" its fixed wireless project (04:00)
  • How Craighead streamlined its fiber deployment (06:30)
  • New middle mile partnership with other electric co-ops (07:40)
  • Plans for federal funding (11:10)

Related stories and links:

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading; and Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Broadband World News

6/17/2022 |
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Thursday, August 4, 2022
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The digital divide in North America is leaving millions without adequate broadband. Incumbents operate in “islands” of connectivity, serving densely populated areas and, at a national scale, perpetuating the digital divide in the gaps in between their service footprints. Regional ISPs have a clear role in closing that gap.

These regional ISPs operate in a highly fragmented landscape, including smaller wireless and FTTH incumbents, satellite ISPs, electric co-ops, tribal communities, and municipalities in public/private partnerships. These regional ISPs face the same cyber threats and operational challenges as their Tier 1 counterparts, but with far fewer resources and revenue-generating population density. As a result, many regional ISPs have developed highly innovated business models for access and core technology, partnerships, financing and services.

The discussion will cover:

  • Three ISPs that have taken an innovative approach to their business, as detailed in a recent STL Partners report
  • Why regional ISPs need to double down on core security basics such as DDoS protection
  • How ISPs have created new revenue by offering managed services
  • Core network capabilities required for IPv4-IPv6 management

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