Six electric cooperatives in Arkansas are bringing high-speed broadband internet access to thousands of their members and plan to offer it to all of their members within the next four to six years.
Broadband projects are underway in areas served by Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark, Craighead Electric Cooperative of Jonesboro, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem, Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville, Ouachita Electric Cooperative of Camden and South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Arkadelphia.
“There is a trend, and it’s far beyond Arkansas,” said Robert McClanahan, vice president of information technology and chief technology officer for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc.
“There are other states in which cooperatives are well ahead of us. It stems from the fact that cooperatives were the ones in the 1930s and early ’40s who brought electricity to rural areas when nobody else would. There’s a lot of thinking in the co-op world that this is the 21st century version of that, that there really is no money to be made by building that much fiber, or that much cable, to serve a very few number of customers.
“Well, co-ops are accustomed to that because that’s what we did back then,” McClanahan said. “The for-profit economics aren’t there.”
For electric cooperatives, this “Herculean effort” is not profit-driven, he said; electric cooperatives are not-forprofit. It’s mission-driven by the goal of improving the quality of life of members.