Electric co-ops eager to expand broadband connections to rural areas

Many of the power cooperatives that helped electrify rural Tennessee in the 1930s and 1940s are gearing up for a similar effort to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas not connected to today's information superhighway. But similar to electrification of the South in the early 20th century, the telecommunications upgrades for rural broadband are likely to be costly and take years or even decades to fully implement.

"We know that in rural America there is a lack of broadband and that is holding back many communities and residents from fully engaging in today's economy," said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). "It's just like electricity in the 1930s. The economics make more sense in the densely populated areas and it's far more challenging to serve sparsely populated areas with capital-intensive services." But Matheson and Tennessee power co-op leaders insist membership-owned cooperatives are well suited for the challenge, even if they are likely to need government help and subsidies to bring broadband everywhere.


Electric co-ops eager to expand broadband connections to rural areas