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CAEC serving Lowndes, seeks input

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) now serving customers including three businesses in Lowndes County is asking for help from the community to determine if there is an interest and a need for high-speed internet, or broadband, in the cooperative’s service territory.
 
According to Nagea Littleton, manager of Energy Services & Communications for CAEC, the cooperative serves 450 members in Lowndes County and businesses including SABIC and Holladay Farms.
She provided a map that shows the service area along U.S. 80 and Alabama Highway 21 in Lowndes County.
 
More, according to its website, CAEC is a not for profit, member-owned electric distribution utility serving more than 42,000 meters in a 10-county area of central Alabama just north of Montgomery.
The cooperative’s service area covers most of the rural areas of Autauga, Elmore, Coosa and Chilton counties as well as members in Tallapoosa, Talladega, Bibb, Perry, Dallas and Lowndes counties. And the cooperative is a $199 million company with 5,500 miles of line serviced by 120 employees.
Also, according to information provided by Littleton, through an online survey, conducted as part of a feasibility study, CAEC is investigating the possibility of bringing rural broadband to its service territory.
Due to the high cost of installing broadband, the cooperative is looking for serious responses by asking those interested to complete a survey and provide a $25 commitment. This $25 helps ensure that those who participate in the survey are truly interested in the service. If the project moves forward, the $25 will take the place of a much higher connection fee. If the project is not implemented, the $25 investment will be refunded. CAEC’s Board of Trustees will use the results of this survey to make a decision as to whether or not to move forward with the project. A decision is expected by the end of the year.
“As cooperative members, we live in some of the most beautiful parts of the state,” said Tom Stackhouse, CAEC president and CEO. “Although we have much to be thankful for and proud of in our communities, many of us lack the technological resource of high-speed internet. As a cooperative, this project is similar to why we were formed 80 years ago – to provide electricity in rural communities when for-profit companies could not justify the investment in areas that did not meet the density they felt was necessary to provide service. We are a not-for-profit organization; this project only looks to cover our costs and enough margins to satisfy our lending organizations while providing a much needed and valuable service.”
 
“The system we are looking to implement would have, at a minimum, speeds that exceed the FCC definition of broadband, which is 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream,” said CAEC Director of Information Systems Scott Lee. “Most average speeds would be 100-200 Mbps, with up to 1Gbps available at a higher cost.”
 
“High-speed internet is something necessary in today’s world,” said Stackhouse. “From economic development, education, medical services or simply enjoying the many conveniences it offers in everyday life, if it is something our members want and need, we are willing to do what we can to make that a reality.”
 
CAEC asks that those who are interested visit www.caecaccess.coop to learn more, sign up and receive updates on the project. They can also call or visit any of the cooperative’s offices.