Residents of rural Louisiana in northern Louisiana served by the Claiborne Electric Cooperative may soon enjoy high-speed Internet access.
Conexon, an Internet service provider in Kansas City, Missouri, won the bidding war against Claiborne Electric for federal grants for broadband Internet in rural areas. Both were bidding to build services in specific rural census blocks.
Conexon has secured more than $ 1 billion in grants from the Federal Communications Commission, winning census blocks in the southern United States.
The Claiborne Electric Cooperative serves more than 20,000 electrical customers in the parishes of Bienville, Claiborne, Lincoln, Ouachita, Union and Webster.
In a Facebook post announcing an update on broadband internet services, Claiborne Electric chief executive Mark Brown said Conexon reached out to the co-op with the aim of working together to meet the needs of members in their community. coverage area.
“Conexon offered several types of potential partnerships,” Brown said in the post. “Each of their proposals required Claiborne Electric Cooperative to provide a significant portion of the upfront costs of building the Internet infrastructure necessary to serve our members.”
According to FCC rules, winning Rural Digital Opportunity Fund bidders are responsible for providing broadband internet service to 95% of each block for which they have secured funding within five years. As the successful contractor, Conexon is required to provide internet service for Claiborne Electric’s coverage area.
Brown said Claiborne is still involved in providing broadband to its customers, if he can negotiate a deal with Conexon.
“We will be working with Conexon as they pay a standard fee to attach their Internet fiber cables to our power poles in the telecommunications space,” he said.
Louisiana Civil Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has said he hopes the deal can be reached.
“Conexon, we’re waiting for them to make the offer to Claiborne and hopefully if they do we can get there pretty quickly,” Campbell said. “I want to make sure they have the ability to have broadband in their homes and in their businesses.”
Campbell said one of the conditions of the FCC’s offer was to ensure that the prices for broadband internet access are reasonable for customers in Claiborne Electric’s coverage area.
“It can’t be extremely high. It needs to be around $ 50 to $ 60 a month and that’s what Conexon is offering. We need to keep prices low where people can afford it,” Campbell said. . “A lot of people live in the rural parishes, they don’t earn a lot of money, and they have fixed incomes and a lot of people who live there want the services but they can’t afford it. we have to make sure that this service offered is reasonable. ”
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