Critical Lessons Learned in Building Successful Broadband Partnerships

Executive interviews conducted by CoBank provide insights on how these uncommon partnerships, when done right, can provide long-term benefits for all involved

Broadband partnerships between rural local exchange carriers and electric distribution cooperatives are few and far between, but when they do occur, and they leverage the respective capabilities of both entities, those pairings can provide highly beneficial broadband services to their communities.

According to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division, rural carriers face significant headwinds as consumers disconnect their landline phones in favor of Voice over Internet Protocol or wireless. Increasingly, to realize economies of scale and diversify their revenue, rural carriers are aggressively investing their federal subsidies in fiber and are partnering with electric co-ops to build fiber networks outside of their territory.

Like rural carriers, electric co-ops that deploy broadband are realizing many benefits, such as powering economic growth in the communities they serve. Importantly, too, broadband deployment helps electric co-ops gain additional revenue and increase system reliability and customer satisfaction. They have also discovered that broadband can greatly enable proven features such as advanced metering infrastructure, outage notification systems and demand response programs.

To learn what has worked among joint broadband partnerships, CoBank recently interviewed several executives at rural local exchange carriers and electric distribution cooperatives that have undertaken such deployments. Tom Binet, senior economist said that despite the diverse forms of these partnerships, the executives interviewed had learned remarkably similar lessons.

“When the respective capabilities of RLECs and EDs are fully appreciated, they can be leveraged to provide highly beneficial broadband services to their communities,” Binet said. “Initiating these enterprises can be as simple as reaching out to one another and taking some time to establish a sense of common objectives, trust and roles. Throughout this process, the well-being and satisfaction of customers should be paramount.”

CoBank summarizes its report findings by listing five “lessons learned” from interviews with U.S. executives who have undertaken broadband partnerships.

A video summary and the full report, Recent Insights into Successful Broadband Partnerships, are available on cobank.com.

About CoBank

CoBank is a $138 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

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