There has been so much talk in D.C. (and in the field) about the future of rural broadband and who is going to build it. I know for a fact that NTCA members have done a yeoman job on extending rural networks, building fiber into areas of the country they serve, and crafting federal and state policies that will allow them to edge out even further into the adjoining areas that have gone unserved by other providers. Electric co-ops have been urged by many in this administration and Congress to step-up to serve their communities. This might make sense in areas where there are not already others doing a good job serving and particularly if they receive federal support for doing so. So, I have been thinking a lot lately about what the strengths of various utilities are and how they all ensure they are getting their “jobs” done.
That thought struck hard at about 2 a.m. today when our power went out after an evening of storms; oddly, just a small pocket of our neighborhood went dark long after the storm had passed through. I continued to toss and turn waiting for the power to come back on, waiting for some air conditioning to kick in, pondering how incredibly quiet it really is when the entire area has no power and wondering what kind of generator my neighbor has that sounds like a jet taking off (nonstop) behind my house?
The thought about how much I hope electric utilities continue to focus on their grid as well – especially since I have a weak one no thanks to Dominion Power—was brought home when we rolled out of bed still without any power and when we took Cassie on a breakfast adventure to Starbucks this morning to make up for a dark house. There was at least one member of our family who was thrilled with this development, particularly since Don had some bacon in his breakfast sandwich…and a buddy in his lap!
I appreciated that Dominion Power has a cool new app that allows me to follow their progress (or lack thereof) and while I admired how they embraced technology and the ability to also see that they knew there was a problem, it might have been more frustrating to see how long it took for them to send out a crew. By the afternoon, we were up and running again and the meat in the freezer was all fine but I was still frustrated that whatever grid I live on has a habit of going down when the wind blows. Not looking forward to the hurricane hitting the East Coast this week…fingers are crossed.
– It did bring home to me that while there is a likely role for rural electrics to play in deploying broadband in some underserved price cap areas, there might be even more interesting opportunities ahead given that large, corporate providers – whether they are publicly traded communications companies or electric power companies – are less inclined to focus on service of their consumers than those local providers – and partnerships between rural utilities might just be the answer.