KANSAS CITY, Mo., June 30, 2023 – Rural fiber broadband leader Conexon and five Florida partner electric cooperatives have collectively secured nearly $56 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding awards to deploy multi-gigabit-capable fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in rural communities across the state.
Beginning with its work on Florida’s first electric co-op FTTH project with Tri-County Electric Cooperative in 2022, Conexon has, in one year, expanded its operations throughout the state, helping co-ops work with counties and other broadband bodies to secure vital funding, and then building networks with the co-ops. In addition to Tri-County Electric’s Big Bend area, the company is building networks in southwest Florida with Glades Electric Cooperative; northwest Florida with Escambia River Electric Cooperative; and north central Florida with Central Florida Electric Cooperative and Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative.
“The availability of reliable and affordable high-speed internet changes the prospects of our communities,” said Julius Hackett, CEO of Tri-County Electric Cooperative. “It attracts additional residents and allows those already living here to thrive and access new opportunities. Thanks to statewide collaboration and support for co-op broadband, digital equity is well on its way to becoming a reality.”
Conexon and its Florida co-op partners are building networks that collectively span 20 counties to ultimately reach the co-ops’ nearly 100,000 members. Conexon’s internet service provider (ISP) arm, Conexon Connect, serves as the ISP for the Tri-County Electric, Glades Electric and Escambia River Electric projects, while the company is managing network design and construction and some operational aspects of the Central Florida Electric and Suwannee Valley Electric projects.
“The collaboration between Conexon and electric cooperatives has sparked a movement that will transform Florida’s rural communities into destinations that rival any other urban or suburban location in the country,” said Jeff Brewington, CEO of Glades Electric Cooperative. “The foresight and commitment of our Governor’s office, counties and local technology planning teams are helping make these critical projects a reality to bring superior broadband to all of rural Florida.”
Conexon’s expansion in Florida follows on the heels of its success in other states, notably Georgia, where 2019 legislation paved the way for co-ops to offer broadband. Since that time, Conexon has joined forces with 13 Georgia co-ops, collectively serving nearly half a million members. Nearly 11,000 miles of fiber are built, giving broadband access to nearly 100,000 Georgia homes and businesses.
Since 2018, Conexon has secured more than $2 billion in local, state, and federal funding to help co-ops build and operate FTTH networks. With its partners, the company builds more fiber broadband than anyone else in the nation, today passing 1 million people in electric cooperative service territories that span 10 percent of the geography of the country.
“Seven years ago, my partner Randy Klindt and I had a simple idea. The idea was that every single member of every single electric cooperative in the country should have access to fiber-based broadband service,” said Conexon Partner Jonathan Chambers. “Why? Because the best investment of public or private dollars in this particular field is in fiber, not other technologies.
“Our goal was to get the entire country built out with the same quality service you get in urban and suburban areas. But nobody would invest in rural areas … just like the 1930s for electric networks. So, we turned to electric cooperatives. Cooperatives are built upon a covenant that all members, no matter where they live, deserve the same quality service at the same rates. That covenant is as true today as it was in the 1930s.”
Through its work and scope, Conexon has established an industry-leading fiber broadband infrastructure and ecosystem to power cooperative success, ensuring Conexon client partners have access to the materials and resources to meet aggressive funding milestones and requirements and economically deploy fiber in their communities.
“For over 80 years, electric cooperatives have been foundational to rural America, recognized and depended on for their commitment to improving lives and communities,” said Randy Klindt, Conexon founding partner and CEO of Conexon Connect. “Since our earliest days, we have made it our mission to provide the advice, industry expertise and resources to help electric co-ops meet the growing need of their members for high-speed internet access and we are grateful for the funding opportunities making these projects possible.”