Broadband service is one step closer
In September, Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative and West Carolina Telephone Cooperative, headquartered in Abbeville, entered into a partnership. You can read the press release that was forwarded to media outlets in late October, announcing this agreement. However, I want to go beyond just facts and share with you our process in choosing this path to bring broadband to our membership.
Most importantly, I’m impressed with the West Carolina folks. Through their WCFIBER subsidiary, they’re delivering quality high-speed internet to a number of large geographic locations in both South Carolina and Georgia. The WCFIBER employee team enjoys a reputation for reliability and for impeccable customer service. This group also meets another important qualification. Their operation was organized in 1952 under the cooperative business model. As a cooperative, their focus mirrors ours. I’m confident our two organizations, with our dedication to service and decades of experience in our respective fields, can excel in this area where others have struggled.
It’s a little difficult to keep my excitement in check, knowing what this project will mean for our area. However, the reality is that it won’t be a quick process. We’ll begin with several pilot projects and extend service into those areas. These areas will be chosen primarily because there’s already access to fiber that can be connected to additional homes or businesses. Other locations are being targeted to test levels of customer saturation. These pilot locations will allow us to evaluate all the many pieces that will go into making this a successful venture.
A complete buildout of the Blue Ridge system will have a price tag in excess of $100 million. We have a strong conviction that our electric members shouldn’t be burdened with subsidizing the implementation of broadband. Consequently, we’re trying to strike a balance between supplying this service as quickly as possible, while also making sure it pays its own way. We believe that approach will enable us to serve our members and, at the same time, bring a much-needed convenience into their homes. Our solemn commitment is that we will accomplish these goals without losing sight of our primary mission of supplying reliable electric service. In reality, broadband possesses the potential of bringing added improvements to the cooperative’s operation as well.
We all have much to learn as this process unfolds. I can tell you that the service we’ll offer our members will qualify as the gold standard—fiber that connects directly to the home. That standard means that Blue Ridge will be providing the very best in internet service. If you’re interested in WCFIBER and their offerings, please visit www.gigupblueridge.com. I believe you’ll like what you see.
While 2020 has brought uncertainty to our lives in many ways, we still have so much for which to be thankful. I bring you wishes for peace during these Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons and look forward to what the New Year holds.