Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr visited OzarksGo’s Fayetteville headquarters Thursday (Sept. 9) to discuss fiber broadband projects being spearheaded by the state’s electric cooperatives.
“These projects have demonstrated an effective model to bring next-gen broadband access to underserved areas throughout the Natural State,” Carr said in an OzarksGo news release. “By bringing high-speed internet to areas that previously had only limited connectivity, they have transformed life for many Arkansans and paved the way for future development.”
OzarksGo, the first cooperative-owned broadband project in Arkansas, connected its first customer in 2017. It serves more than 27,000 customers in Northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma and has been joined by several other cooperative fiber projects.
Together, fourteen Arkansas electric cooperatives have invested, or are planning to invest, over $1.66 billion in broadband communication infrastructure, exclusively in fiber-optic networks.
Diamond State Networks, a new company that will provide wholesale broadband by uniting the cooperative networks, promises to enhance connectivity throughout Arkansas. The network will cover more than 64% of the state’s landmass, with more than 50,000 miles of fiber lines providing access to 1.25 million rural Arkansans.
“We are honored to host Commissioner Carr and innovative cooperative broadband providers from around the state for this important discussion,” said Steve Bandy, general manager of OzarksGo. “The FCC has recognized the importance of providing access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet to all Americans, and we appreciate their support in our mission.”
“We launched OzarksGo with the mission of improving the quality of life of our members in Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma by providing world-class internet access, television and telephone service,” said Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric. “Internet access is a requirement to participate in the modern economy, and we have been humbled by the overwhelming response from our members. We sincerely appreciate Commissioner Carr’s recognition of our efforts and support for our continued endeavors.”
Companies participating in the meeting included:
- OzarksGo, a subsidiary of Ozarks Electric Cooperative
- Empower, a subsidiary of Craighead Electric Cooperative
- Wave Rural Connect, a subsidiary of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative
- South Central Connect, a subsidiary of South Central Electric Cooperative
- NEXT, Powered by NAEC, a subsidiary of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative
- Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.
- Diamond State Networks, a wholesale broadband provider that unites the fiber-optic networks of electric cooperatives throughout Arkansas.