Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and its not-for-profit subsidiary, Gibson Connect, have announced their boards have approved moving forward with Phase III of their broadband network buildout. Phase III work will begin in the Rutherford, Kenton and Newbern zones. These zones have met their participation goals using Gibson Connect’s registration website, join.gibsonconnect.com.
“A start date for Phase III has not been set, but board approval will enable us to soon begin the engineering step of the buildout,” says Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect. “We plan to start Phase III with these three zones and add more zones a little later, based on join.gibsonconnect.com registrations, as well as engineering and grant/loan requirements,” he said.
Charles Phillips, Gibson EMC VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations, explains, “Gibson Connect provides its internet service through Gibson EMC’s substations, meaning work must be completed in the substation and the fiber network must be built from the substation to the zone before Gibson Connect can begin construction in the zone. A grant or loan can impact the order of our buildout because it is typically for an area that has met grant eligibility requirements and may have deadlines by which we must complete the work to receive the funding.”
“Gibson EMC is actively seeking out and taking advantage of every grant opportunity in order to save our members’ money on construction costs,” Rodamaker says. “Where grants are not available, we’re applying for low-interest loans.”
Rodamaker says the ReConnect loan Gibson EMC was awarded by the USDA will ultimately help construct the fiber network in certain parts of Obion County in Tennessee and in Gibson EMC’s Kentucky counties. ReConnect also has a deadline by which Gibson EMC must complete the work, but Rodamaker says, “it allows a five-year period as opposed to the shorter deadlines of the grants. Utilizing grants and low-interest loans will make the fiber network construction more affordable for Gibson EMC’s entire membership,” he says.
More than 4,700 consumer-members have been connected since construction started in February 2018. “We’ve completed the initial construction in Phase I zones, and we are diligently working to connect those who have more recently signed up for the service,” Phillips says. “Phase II is well underway, but there is still considerable work to do. Board approval for Phase III zones will enable us to begin the initial step of the build in those areas,” Phillips said.
“We plan to ultimately provide high-speed internet access to all of our eligible members, but the buildout is a massive project that is time-intensive, he says. “With about 3,100 miles of the fiber network to engineer and build, we knew from the time we started construction in August 2018 that it would take at least five years to provide access to all of our members. Even so, we understand how urgently this service is needed and we are doing everything within our power to provide it as quickly as possible.”
“We began this project because our members told us they needed this service,” Rodamaker said, “and after experiencing the necessity to work and learn from home during the pandemic, we are more convinced than ever that we are doing the right thing for our members and our communities,” he said. “Those who have already been connected are extremely pleased with and grateful for this service.”