Electrical Cooperatives:
Starting & Growing
Broadband Networks

by IPv4.Global Staff

Electric cooperatives are a unique type of utility company that are owned and controlled by the members they serve. Their interests perfectly align with their customers’. Which means, providing robust, reliable broadband service along with supplying power has become central to co-ops’ mission.

Now, through hard work, ingenuity and the help from government, many electrical cooperatives also supply internet and broadband services to areas with limited access. This has benefited co-ops and the communities they serve. However, the process of starting and growing broadband networks can be difficult without some guidance. This blog will cover:

  • How electrical co-ops can begin providing internet and broadband,
  • How to grow these networks once established,
  • Where to look for government help with funding these projects,
  • The best way to get the IPv4 addresses necessary to provide broadband to more communities

Electrical Cooperatives are Growing Suppliers of Broadband Services

  • There are currently over 900 electric cooperatives in the United States.
  • It is estimated that 200 of these co-ops provide high-speed internet access and services in addition to electric utilities.
  • Of the ~700 that do not yet provide internet service, nearly 200 of these are investing in ways to start providing this service, and growing their networks.
  • If these 200 succeed, nearly half (45%) of all electric cooperatives in the US will be supplying internet service to their areas, and growing their broadband networks.

Benefits of Providing Internet & Broadband

There are several benefits for electric cooperatives to provide internet and broadband services to their communities.

  • Firstly, it allows the co-ops to diversify their revenue streams, which can help to stabilize their financial situation. This is especially important for cooperatives that operate in rural areas, where traditional sources of revenue may be limited.
  • Secondly, providing internet and broadband services can help to bridge the digital divide and improve access to education, healthcare, and other important services for residents in rural areas. This can help to promote economic development and improve the overall quality of life in these communities.
  • Finally, providing internet and broadband services can also help electric co-ops to better serve their members by enabling them to access information and services online, such as bill payments, outage reporting, and energy usage data.

How to Start Providing Broadband

  • Conduct a feasibility study to determine the potential demand for broadband services in the community and the costs associated with providing the service.
  • Develop a business plan outlining the goals, strategies, and projected costs of the broadband project.
  • Identify potential partners and funding sources, such as grants, loans, and public-private partnerships.
  • Obtain any necessary regulatory approvals and permits.
  • Develop a plan for the installation and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to provide broadband service.
  • Explore the IPv4 marketplace to begin getting the addresses needed to supply internet services to the communities you serve (more on this further down).
  • Apply to government grants and programs designed to help cooperatives provide broadband to rural areas with limited access (more on this further down).

Staff Expertise Needed to Provide Broadband

Providing broadband service requires a diverse range of expertise among electrical co-op staff. Some of the key areas of expertise that may be needed include:

  • Network Engineering: Understanding of network design, installation, and maintenance of broadband infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables, wireless towers, and other equipment.
  • Business and financial management: Knowledge of financial management, budgeting, and forecasting, as well as experience in developing and implementing business plans.
  • Regulatory compliance: Understanding of federal, state, and local regulations related to broadband service, including any necessary approvals and permits.
  • Marketing and customer service: Skills in marketing and customer service are crucial to attract and retain customers, as well as to promote the service in the community.
  • Project management: Experience in planning and managing large-scale projects, including coordinating with partners, contractors, and other stakeholders.
  • IT and Cybersecurity: Knowledge of IT and cybersecurity best practices, to ensure the protection of customer data and the integrity of the network.
  • Legal: Knowledge of the legal framework and contracts associated with broadband service provision, including agreements with partners, vendors, and customers.

It is not necessary for the co-op staff to have all these skills, but it is important to have a team with a good mix of expertise and experience. Additionally, the co-op may need to hire additional staff or contract with outside experts to provide the necessary expertise.

Government Funding Programs for Cooperatives to Supply Broadband

Electrical cooperatives can apply for government funding to supply broadband to rural communities through various federal programs:

  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes $65 billion set aside to help rural communities and low-income urban residents gain access to broadband internet service. $42.5 billion of the funding is in the form of grants to be run by the states in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program. Co-ops are, of course, eligible for the program to both plan/map the needs of communities and to install service.
  • The Rural Utilities Service Program, run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of the main sources of funding for electrical co-ops to provide broadband. The program provides grants, loans, and loan guarantees to help finance the deployment of broadband services in rural areas. To apply for funding through this program, co-ops must submit a proposal that outlines details of the project, including the proposed service area, technology, and expected costs.
  • Connect America Fund (CAF) program, run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides funding and support to service providers that deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas. To apply for funding through this program, electrical co-ops must submit a detailed proposal outlining the proposed service area, proposed technology, and expected costs.
  • The Community Connect Grant Program, run by the USDA Rural Development, provides funding to support the deployment of broadband services in remote and underserved rural areas that lack broadband access.

It’s important to note that these are some of the main programs to fund broadband expansion and there might be more programs that are specific to a state or region. It’s also worth noting that these programs are subject to change over time and new programs may be added.

Growing Your Broadband Provider Network

Once you have your internet service plan in place, it’s important for electrical cooperatives to keep growing their broadband network in order to serve more communities, and maximize revenue. Follow these tips to get started:

  • Conduct a needs assessment to identify areas in the community where broadband service is inadequate or unavailable. Create maps.
  • Investigate the legal and tax implications of service expansion or the creation of a separate entity to provide broadband.
  • Invest in upgrading existing infrastructure to increase capacity and improve service quality.
  • Develop marketing and outreach strategies to promote the service and attract new customers.
  • Look into expanding the service area, by partnering with other providers or expanding the network. Consider the following as potential partners:
    • Other utilities
    • Telecoms
    • Cable providers
  • Create a plan for the installation and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to provide broadband service.
  • Explore the IPv4 marketplace to begin getting the addresses needed to supply internet services to the communities you serve (more on this further down).
  • Apply to government grants and programs designed to help co-ops provide broadband to rural areas with limited access (more on this further down).

Funding Broadband Projects

  • Look into grants and loans from federal and state programs, such as those listed above.
  • Consider partnerships with private companies or other local organizations.
  • Investigate alternative funding options such as bonds, member capital credits, or local taxes.

Sourcing Internet & Broadband Projects

  • Research equipment and service providers to find the best options for the cooperative’s specific needs and budget.
  • Look into different options for service delivery, such as fiber, wireless, or satellite.
  • Consider partnering with other co-ops or local organizations that have experience providing broadband services.
  • Be sure to comply with any applicable regulations and standards

How to Get IPv4 Addresses to Expand Broadband Networks

Electrical cooperatives have a growing demand for IPv4 addresses in order to provide internet service to their customers. IPv4 addresses are necessary for connecting devices to the internet and as more devices are connected, the demand for IPv4 addresses has grown.

This has led to a shortage of available addresses, making it more difficult for organizations like electrical cooperatives to acquire the addresses they need to provide internet for their customers. This article will cover the best way that electrical cooperatives can obtain IPv4 addresses in order to deliver internet services to the communities they supply.

Difficulties of Getting IPv4 Addresses: IPv4 Exhaustion

  • Limited Supply: The supply of IPv4 addresses is limited, as they were distributed in large blocks to organizations and service providers during the early days of the internet. As a result, the available pool of IPv4 addresses is becoming increasingly scarce.
  • High Demand: The demand for IPv4 addresses is high, as more and more devices are connecting to the internet. This includes not only computers and smartphones, but also IoT devices, autonomous vehicles, and other emerging technologies.
  • Increasing Prices: As the supply of IPv4 addresses decreases and the demand increases, the prices for these addresses on the IPv4 marketplace have risen significantly. This can make it difficult for some organizations to afford the cost of obtaining the necessary addresses.
  • Legal and Technical Challenges: The process of obtaining addresses from the IPv4 marketplace can also be complicated by legal and technical challenges. For example, organizations may need to navigate complex regulations and legal agreements, and may also need to reconfigure their networks to support the new addresses.

Why Electrical Cooperatives Hire IPv4 Brokers

There are several benefits for electrical cooperatives when trading addresses through IPv4 brokers:

  • Access to a large inventory of addresses: IPv4 brokers typically have a large inventory of available addresses, which can make it easier for electrical co-ops to acquire the addresses they need.
  • Expertise in the IPv4 market: IPv4 brokers have experience in the IPv4 market and can help electrical co-ops to navigate the complexities of buying and selling addresses.
  • Cost savings: IPv4 brokers can often negotiate better prices for addresses than electrical co-ops would be able to on their own.
  • Speed and efficiency: IPv4 brokers can help electrical co-ops acquire addresses more quickly and easily than if they were to try to acquire them on their own.
  • Reduced risk: IPv4 brokers typically only work with reputable sellers and buyers, which can help to ensure that electrical co-ops are getting legitimate addresses that will work as intended.
  • IPv4 leasing options: Some IPv4 brokers may offer IPv4 leasing options which allows the co-operatives to use the addresses for a certain period of time and return it after the lease period is over.
  • IPv4 consultations: Some IPv4 brokers may offer IPv4 consultations which can help electrical co-ops to understand their IPv4 needs and how to plan for future growth.
  • Transparency and accountability: IPv4 brokers are typically transparent in their operations and accountable for their actions, which can give electrical co-ops peace of mind when buying or selling addresses.

Get Help From a Trusted IPv4 Broker

IPv4.global is one of the most well known IPv4 brokers in the marketplace, and helps some of the world’s most successful businesses and electrical co-ops find the addresses they need, with prices and plans that match their goals. They offer a wide range of services including buying and selling IPv4 addresses, IPv4 leasing and IPv4 consultations.