AEC Explores Broadband Partnership

Appalachian Electric Cooperative (AEC) has partnered with Morristown Utilities (MUS) and FiberNet to explore the possibility of bringing high speed broadband service to members of AEC in parts of Hamblen and Jefferson Counties. We have engaged the services of a consultant to conduct a broadband assessment and feasibility study to determine the financial and business plan, including estimated engineering and construction costs, to build-out a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) infrastructure. The consultant identified portions of the service area with the greatest potential for success. The study is intended to cover the service area in Jefferson and Hamblen County, with other portions of AEC’s service area to be considered in the future. Considering support through a shared cost in the study is the City of White Pine, Town of Dandridge and City of Jefferson City; which were the first entities to make requests for possible services through MUS.

According to Greg Williams, General Manager at AEC, “Broadband service is becoming an increasingly essential service for education, economic development and improving the quality of life for our members. AEC members have expressed concerns that current broadband service providers are not meeting their needs or, in some cases, are not able to provide service at all. We are driven to meet the needs of our members whenever it makes good business sense and when we can do so within the regulatory environment in which we must operate.”

As an electric Cooperative, AEC is currently limited by State statute with regard to providing retail services like video and broadband. Recent action by the FCC in redefining broadband as a telecommunication service could eventually open the door for AEC to get into this market; however there is still much uncertainty. The potential opportunity does exist today, for AEC to partner with a third-party provider to bring retail service to the consumer, using Morristown’s FiberNet as the wholesale provider and AEC’s fiber network as the delivery infrastructure. This public-private partnership model is already being tested in other areas of the country and is providing potential results that a business plan of this nature is viable and workable.

In coming months, our consultant will be reaching out to a cross-section of members of the Cooperative to engage their interest and support in possible high-speed broadband service within their area. We remain hopeful the assessment and feasibility study will support a project and the potential of bringing this important service to the members of AEC.

Source: Submitted by AEC

Jefferson Farmers Co-op 08112014