Internet co-op to build fiber infrastructure for rural Crawford County

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Recently-incorporated Crawford County Communications Cooperative (3C Co-op) intends to build the fiber optic infrastructure to provide Fiber To The Home (FTTH) gigabit service for the under-served rural residents of Crawford County. 

This will provide symmetrical gigabit service, with upload and download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (megabits/second), to all of the 3,605 locations that have no broadband access, requiring over 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable to be buried.

On Monday, Nov. 19, with the assistance of Andre Boening, Wisconsin Field Rep for the Rural Utility Service Telecommunications Program, the board of 3C Co-op met with cooperative development specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) and the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Center.

Attending the meeting were Lynn Pittman from the University of Wisconsin and Margaret Bau, USDA Cooperative Specialist working with USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center, Rod Olson, CEO of Vernon Communication Cooperative, as well as Dale Klemme and Lori Bekkum with Community Development Alternatives.

“This “rural internetification” is as crucial in the lives of rural residents as the 1930s “rural electrification” projects, also established by rural cooperatives and funded by the USDA,” 3C Chairman Jay McCloskey said. RUS would provide the majority of the funding for 3C Co-op’s FTTH Project.

“Community ownership will pay off for years down the road” commented the USDA’s Bau.

Boening added, “The formation of 3C Co-op has the potential to bring needed cutting edge broadband to the citizens of Crawford County.”

Vernon Communication Co-op’s Olson’s invaluable input shed light on the engineering for this major infrastructure project. “A crew can bury five to 10 miles of cable per week, under ideal circumstances,” he said. So completion of 3C’s FTTH Project will require time, patience, and diligence.

“Organizational priorities are our focus at the moment,” McCloskey said. There was robust discussion about Co-op membership issues, especially relating to funding and building the infrastructure in phases.

The 3C Co-op Board is committed to installing service to as many residents as possible in the shortest possible time.

“I love the 3C Co-op’s Board’s “can-do” spirit,” declared USDA Co-op Specialist Bau.

“The cooperative approach has long been one way for communities to effectively meet their needs for goods and services,” UW’s Pittman said. “It is exciting to see 3C Co-op moving to further explore and develop this option as a way to meet community broadband needs.”

“The lack of adequate internet severely affects us all,” said 3C Board’s Member At Large, Huey Kinzie. “Residents acting together as a cooperative can make fiber to our homes become a reality! Community support of 3C Co-op and its Gigabit FTTH Project is the key. We all need to get involved and make our voices heard. As Co-op members, we will be the collective owners of 3C Co-op and its infrastructure.”

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