United Cooperative Services recently connected their 10,000th member with high-speed internet despite formidable regional, national and global challenges faced by all businesses in the last two years.
United is one of a handful Texas electric distribution cooperatives currently providing high-speed internet to members, according to the cooperative’s statewide trade association, Texas Electric Cooperatives.
The majority of United’s service territory arguably lies within an internet desert, according to the National Broadband Needs Map drawn by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“We are so pleased to begin filling the internet void so many of our members have experienced for so long,” said Cameron Smallwood, United CEO. “On top of that, we have done so in a remarkably fast time because we see the urgency. The COVID-19 pandemic only magnified why fast, reliable internet is now a requirement in today’s world. That’s one of many reasons why we have worked so hard to bring high-speed internet to 10,000 of our members.
“This project exemplifies the very core of our existence, which was to bring a utility available only in densely populated areas to rural people. Here we are, 83 years later, doing the same thing again.”
Following an overwhelming “yes” vote by co-op members in 2019, leadership at the 84-year-old electric cooperative decided to deploy high-speed internet to its underserved membership in the same spirit that electricity was extended across the same area during the days of the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s.
Marcellus Nixon, United vice president of internet services and the internal architect of United’s growing network, said the co-op’s high-speed service is so popular that adjustments had to be made earlier than projected to meet bandwidth demand.
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 electric is projected to take only five years for the internet deployment.
“United’s members will no longer be on the outside looking in, and the communities United serves will prosper from the delivery of this life altering service,” he said. “The impact will be the same as the impact that our cooperative predecessors made by bringing electricity to rural America.
“United will not stop at 10,000 active members. This project will continue until every member within United’s territory has the opportunity to have 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.”