Local Cooperative Grows Better Broadband in Rural Alabama

Date: 1 Jul 2020 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Alabama-based Cullman Electric Cooperative recently launched its new Fiber-to-the-Home network Sprout Fiber Internet, reported the Cullman Times.

In 1936, Cullman Electric was the first co-op in the state of Alabama to “energize” its electric lines. Today, it serves about 44,000 member-owners in the north central part of the state.

The first phase of the co-op’s project will extend the Sprout Fiber Internet network to 12,000 of those members, making gigabit Internet access available to both residents and businesses. Community members are looking forward to faster broadband speeds, while state and local officials hope the new network will boost the region’s economy.

“This is going to be a game changer,” State Representative Randall Shedd said at the announcement. “When rural Alabama has high speed Internet, then rural Alabama will be able to do work in rural Alabama.”

Connecting the Grid and Their Members

The electric co-op’s decision to invest in a Fiber-to-the-Home network was influenced in part by a petition organized by Baileyville residents dissatisfied with the poor broadband options available in the area.

Additionally, Cullman Electric was interested in developing a fiber network to connect its substations and better manage its electric grid. “It will cut down outage response times significantly and lay the foundation for us to take advantage of cutting-edge technology in the future,” shared CEO Tim Culpepper.

In a Facebook Live video of the announcement, Cullman Electric also noted the importance of a recent state law clarifying that electric cooperatives can use their existing easements to deploy broadband.

The co-op will build the Sprout Fiber Internet network in phases. It has already started construction on the first portion, aiming to connect 12,000 co-op members over the next year and a half at a cost of approximately $18 million. If the first phase is successful, Cullman Electric will extend the network to its remaining members. Residents can check their address online to find out whether they live in the phase one network area.

Cullman Electric plans to start connecting subscribers to the fiber network this Fall. Residents will be able to subscribe to monthly broadband plans of 300 Megabits per second symmetrical for $59.99 or 1 Gigabit per second for $79.99. Sprout Fiber Internet will also offer phone service and business subscriptions.

“It’s a Great Day”

Sprout Fiber Internet logo

Cullman Electric is already seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the new fiber network from members, from both inside and outside of the planned phase one service area. In a Facebook post, the co-op said that more than 1,200 members expressed interest in the new broadband service, and people voiced their excitement in the comments.

Area officials are likewise enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the network on the local economy. “It’s a great day,” said Donnis Leeth, Mayor of Colony, at the announcement event. “Colony will be able to advance more.”

Culpepper added:

Cullman Electric Cooperative has always been focused on serving our members, and Sprout Fiber Internet will be a key factor in helping the people, the businesses and the communities we serve grow now and into the future.

For more information on electric cooperative broadband networks in Alabama and around the country view our articles on Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, and Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Cooperative, or read our recently updated report, Cooperatives Fiberize America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era.

View a short video on Sprout Fiber Interent below.


Photo by Aaron Manning via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

This article was originally published on MuniNetworks.org. Read the original here.

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Katie Kienbaum

Katie is a Researcher with ILSR's Energy Democracy initiative, where she researches and writes about equitable and decentralized clean energy and its impact on communities across the country. Before joining the Energy Democracy initiative, she was a Research Associate with the Community Broadband Networks initiative