OSAGE VALLEY CONTINUES TO EXPLORE BROADBAND
In August 2019, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative’s (OVEC) Board of Directors hired consulting firm, Conexon, to complete a feasibility study for the provision of broadband within its service territory. The feasibility study was a comprehensive analysis completed based on the cooperative’s membership demographics and service territory.
The results of the study arrived in late 2019 and were analyzed by the cooperative’s staff and discussed with the board at the January 28th meeting. Overall, the study conveyed that a fiber project for the cooperative would come with an expensive price tag and many challenges. The study did suggest that some future funding opportunities could become available through the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction coming up in October 2020.
The cooperative has continued the process of gathering information from various consultants, contractors, and fellow cooperatives that have entered the broadband business as well as many others in the industry. Much time and effort are being put into this decision as a broadband project will have a major impact on our members, employees and communities.
We have learned that the RDOF reverse auction will begin October 22, 2020. There are several deadlines that must be met in order to bid in this auction and the cooperative is continuing to prepare itself for this. In the coming weeks when final auction details are available, the cooperative’s board will decide whether to enter the auction. If the cooperative does participate in the auction, the decision to enter the broadband business will be contingent upon the amount of funding awarded to the cooperative. Simply entering the auction does not guarantee funding and therefore will not guarantee a cooperative broadband network.
“Osage Valley Electric Cooperative knows that broadband service provided across its territory would undoubtedly be a huge benefit for members and the communities we serve, but we feel putting the Cooperative’s core business at financial risk would not be in the best interest of the entire membership so careful consideration is being given before any future steps are taken” stated Jarrod Campbell, OVEC’s CEO/General Manager. The staff and directors will continue to monitor the ever-changing field of broadband and will stay abreast of the evolving rules and targets needed to enter the upcoming auction if necessary.