United Cooperative Services recently connected its 10,000th member to high-speed internet despite the formidable regional, national and global challenges that all businesses have faced over the past two years.
United is one of the few electric utility co-ops in Texas currently providing high-speed Internet access to its members, according to the co-op’s statewide trade association, Texas Electric Cooperatives.
The majority of United’s service territory is arguably in an internet wilderness, according to the National Broadband Needs Map compiled by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“We are excited to begin filling the internet void that so many of our members have known for so long,” said United CEO Cameron Smallwood. “On top of that, we did it in a remarkably quick timeframe because we see the urgency. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified why fast, reliable internet is now a requirement around the world. It’s one of the many reasons we’ve worked so hard to bring high-speed Internet to 10,000 of our members.
“This project illustrates the very heart of our existence, which was to provide rural populations with a service available only in densely populated areas. Here we are, 83 years later, doing the same thing again.
Following an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote from co-op members in 2019, the management of the 84-year-old electricity co-op decided to roll out high-speed internet to its underserved members in the same spirit as the Electricity was extended to the same area during the days of the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s.
Marcellus Nixon, United’s vice president of internet services and internal architect of United’s growing network, said the co-op’s broadband service is so popular that adjustments had to be made sooner than expected to meet the bandwidth request.
The current system consists of 3,200 miles of fiber optic line and is growing daily, he said. What took 80 years to build for electricity should only take five years to deploy the Internet.
“United members will no longer be on the outside looking in, and the communities United serve will thrive through the delivery of this life-changing service,” he said. “The impact will be the same as our cooperative predecessors had in bringing electricity to rural America.
“United will not stop at 10,000 active members. This project will continue until every member in United territory has the opportunity to enjoy fast, reliable and affordable Internet service. We are building a better and brighter world for our members, and we plan to bring our members the world at the speed they need.