CONNECT RURAL AMERICA
Register for access to a recording of our CEO-led Conexon Broadband Workshop
Conexon Office, Kansas City on May 20, 2019
In the 1930s, the country embarked on a great endeavor to bring electricity to rural America. Rural Electric Cooperatives have been serving our communities for eighty years. Our clients are embarking on the next great endeavor, bringing fiber optic internet access to rural America. The difference between the 1930s and now is not the cost to build networks, nor the technical know-how — it is the will to do so. We believe in rural America. We believe rural Americans deserve the same opportunities as the rest of the country. We believe Americans can still build things. Join the movement to Connect Rural America to true broadband access to the internet.
Having that revenue guaranteed for the first 10 years gives us the breathing room to work through growing pains.
“The biggest benefit is that it offsets the losses in first few years when otherwise, we would be building significant debt to the co-op.”
CAF II Award — $28.6M
It started off very unwillingly…
I was very skeptical, at times outspokenly so, that broadband was not something electric cooperatives should be doing. Obviously, those thoughts and comments look foolish today as we deploy fiber-to-the-home ourselves. My opinion changed as I became more educated and several main assumptions about cooperative broadband projects proved inaccurate. It also began when Jonathan Chambers with Conexon presented to Oklahoma statewide in February 2017. Not only did he dispel some myths regarding the main challenges in getting into broadband, but it was also clear that Conexon could provide the expertise needed to make it happen. Fast forward a few years with our launch and Conexon has been with us at every step. Without Conexon, we would not have a fiber-to-the-home project
Randy knows electric co-ops and he knows broadband inside and out.
“Being able to pull from that experience is great. The way he laid out the plan made perfect sense, and with the research and thought behind it, it was a direction we felt we could go in.”
“We shared the feasibility plan with our Board,” says Tim Davis, “and the rest is history. I have a lot of respect for Jonathan Chambers. He’s an ethical guy and we put a lot of stock in what he said.”
Within 30 minutes of meeting Randy…
“Trust,” he said. “Within 30 minutes of meeting Randy, I knew Conexon was the right company. They brought experience and knowledge, but also respect, compassion, and understanding of exactly what we were facing. With Randy and the team, I knew I was sitting across the table from someone who had actually been where I was. I couldn’t have found a better partner.”
We’re a small co-op with limited resources.
Our Conexon project manager takes a huge load off of us, doing everything from working with contractors and vendors, to doing ride-outs, pulling permits and a lot more. We always have someone there when we have questions and we can get answers right away. I don’t know how we could have done this without Conexon.
Conexon basically auto-designed our entire system in 3 days.
This allows us to now very quickly deploy wherever we want because we’ve eliminated that step. The benefits of the auto-design – saving us time, energy and effort – makes us go so much faster now.”
We were still trying to figure out the best way…
… to get to where we wanted to go,” Wood recalls, “when at a CEO conference, Jonathan Chambers gave a talk about Conexon, its co-op experience and its approach to fiber. We decided to take one more look at whether a fiber buildout was feasible on our system.”
That “one more look” led to a feasibility study delivered by Conexon that ultimately brought CVEC’s broadband efforts full circle – the decision to serve members with its own high-speed data network.
If you’re getting questions about broadband from members or your board…
“Get a study,” he advises other cooperative leaders. “Broadband isn’t for every company, but you can’t answer the question of ‘why or why not’ without that feasibility study.
Conexon has been able to have a hand in everything…
“Conexon has been able to have a hand in everything and that support allowed us to jump in and out of tasks and react very quickly,” said Goodspeed, “At every step, they were there saying, ‘this is what we think you should do.’ We had our lifeline in Conexon, with availability and accessibility, unlike anything I’ve seen in my 30-year career.”
We knew that Conexon was the company…
We knew that Conexon was the company that could help us bring this to reality,” Smith says. “They have a proven track record with other cooperatives and a blueprint on how to do this in a way that works in terms of affordability, speed of deployment and sustainability.
The type of system, the Distributed TAP, is about the only way we felt we could go in a rural area like ours
… Quite honestly it was something I wasn’t even aware of, but once I got my head around it, it made a lot of sense. As far as being cost-effective, it’s worked really well, when you consider the price of TAPS versus running more fiber. It’s worked extremely well.
Clearly Conexon was the pick of the field
… Wood says. “It has been and still is the leader in fiber design and FTTH networks amongst electric co-ops. We talked to a lot of other co-ops, and part of what separated Conexon was its involvement with all of the co-op projects we could find that had delivered high performance, successfully been built in a relatively compressed schedule, and stayed within a reasonable budget. Conexon is the only consultant I know that has met all of three of those consistently.
Conexon knows how the auction works…
… which meant we didn’t have to learn all of the aspects. All the legal and advisory services were part of the process with Conexon. It was nice not having to worry about the mechanics of the auction, Jonathan and the team knew how it works, so there was no learning curve. Had we done it by ourselves, I’m not sure we could have gotten our paperwork ready and participated, given our late start.
As a result of having a feasibility study…
… both pre-auction and post-auction, it was made clear to us that the win will allow us to cash flow in year one. We will not be subsidizing from the electric side.
Obviously Randy had the experience with several co-ops…
… he worked directly for,” Wood says. “He understands the challenges of low-density areas, but also the opportunities when you own the infrastructure, poles and overhead plant. He understands the culture of a co-op, being member and service-focused, so he’s able to help with the challenges of bringing in a new communications business.
The help Conexon provided with the auction process…
… was really the beginning of the value of our partnership. We had no experience, they brought the expertise to get us started. The results of the CAF II win will allow us to end year one and we will not be subsidizing the build-out from the electric side. That’s a unique story.
The federal compliance and requirements …
…for Internet and voice providers were completely new to us. We felt very comfortable that Conexon could help us set up the process and structures to make sure we were in compliance, and we were very successful in the auction in large part to Jonathan’s knowledge and insights.”
CAF II Award — $28.6M
All of our members will receive benefit…
All of our members will receive benefit from the enhanced electric, regardless of whether they choose to subscribe to broadband services. That’s the most important aspect to us, and this way, we can also provide broadband services to those who want them in an affordable way, without those services being subsidized.
That before and after review demonstrated…
.. what the auction meant to our co-op,” Smith says. “The results of the CAF II award mean we will not be subsidizing the build-out from the electric side, which is important for us. We had no idea of the magnitude of the auction, but Conexon did and that’s part of the value they bring to a partnership.
The CAF money changed our economic picture significantly…
… Wood says. “Having that revenue guaranteed for the first 10 years gives us the breathing room to work through growing pains. The biggest benefit is that it offsets the losses in the first few years when otherwise we would be building significant debt to the co-op.
Since we didn’t have (broadband) expertise we needed…
Since we didn’t have (broadband) expertise we needed someone we were comfortable with that we didn’t have to teach the co-op business model to. Conexon is made up of co-op people, so they understand how we need to do things.
We categorize this as another frontier…
We categorize this as another frontier, closely aligned with electricity to rural America in the late 30s and early 40s,” he says. “No one would build out because the farm was too far away. Now, 80 years later, we’re bringing something to rural Americans – something they need –that they couldn’t get another way.
This drives us every day.