Here's some great news if you live in the more rural areas surrounding Texarkana,  Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative, through a wholly-owned fiber subsidiary, has secured more than $53 million through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to deliver gigabit-capable broadband service. The fiber entity will offer service throughout the rural Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas communities served by Southwest Arkansas Electric, along with designated rural communities in Louisiana.

According to the press release, the cooperative’s fiber entity intends to launch a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network to serve 100% of the 26,000-plus homes and businesses in its 11-county service territory. The RDOF funding will enable it to launch and deploy the gigabit-speed network to its members in a timely and cost-effective manner, allowing them to realize the economic, educational and community benefits of reliable, affordable high-speed internet service. Southwest Arkansas Electric’s deployment will encompass 5,000 miles to offer access to FTTH broadband throughout its electric territory as well as communities within the four-state area surrounding its electric service territory.

Southwest Arkansas Electric’s participation in the auction at the gigabit tier signaled its intent to deploy 100% fiber, resulting in a super-fast, dependable and robust network. Fiber offers symmetrical gigabit speed and power that accommodates multiple users and devices at the same time without losing service quality. Through the fiber entity’s network, rural communities served by the cooperative will have easier and more reliable access to the many services made so necessary by the pandemic – distance learning for kids, telecommuting options for working parents, virtual connections to friends and family, telemedicine and more.

“The areas we serve have long been bypassed in terms of high-speed internet access. That changes today,” said Dion Cooper, CEO of Southwest Arkansas Electric. “The funding we were awarded through our fiber entity during the recent auction means that those living and working in our area will now have access to a premier class of high-speed internet, and consequently easier access to the services we are increasingly reliant on.”

Southwest Arkansas Electric was a member of the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium, a bidding entity of 90-plus cooperatives coordinated and led by rural fiber-optic network design and construction management leader Conexon to secure RDOF funds. Overall, Conexon’s RECC was awarded over $1.1 billion, enabling electric cooperatives across 22 states to deliver world-class FTTH service to more than two million rural Americans.

“For years, AT&T, Windstream, CenturyLink and other telephone companies have been given public funds to provide telecommunications service in rural areas of southwestern Arkansas,” explained Conexon Partner, Jonathan Chambers. “And yet, the vast majority of residents lack the broadband services necessary to live and work in today’s environment. The funding that will be awarded to Southwest Arkansas Electric’s fiber subsidiary is but a fraction of the funding that continues to flow to the telephone companies from the state and federal governments.

“But with this money, Southwest Arkansas Electric will build a state-of-the-art fiber network to all of its members. We’re proud to be working with electric co-ops throughout the state, as Arkansas continues to lead the nation in rural fiber deployment.

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