United Electric applied for a grant-loan combination through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2010, leading to construction of 1,500 miles of fiber lines. The $21.2 million award took the form of a 70 percent grant, 30 percent loan, effectively forming what is now known as United Fiber. The service was launched in 2013 and the initial expectation was to reach 4,000 residential customers and 60 businesses with broadband internet, video and telephone service.
United Fiber now offers speeds up to one GB for residential subscribers and 10 GB dedicated bandwidth for business subscribers.
“What separates United Fiber from other internet providers is our local customer service. That has been a very important piece to the success of United Fiber. United Electric Cooperative has been in the local communities for over 80 years and we plan to continue serving the local communities for another 80 years,” commented CEO Jim Bagley.
United Fiber serves over 20 communities, seventy-five churches, 100 healthcare facilities, and 25 educational facilities with broadband internet. Approximately 70 percent of United Electric’s membership also have access to high-speed internet. The goal is to ensure that all United Electric members have access to high-speed internet.
Electric cooperatives were formed to bring much needed electricity to rural areas in the 1930s and 1940s, and United is fulfilling that same mission today with broadband.
“In many instances, our members who live in the very rural areas have better internet than someone living in larger cities, commented Chief Development Officer Darren Farnan. “We knew reliable, high-speed internet was lacking for our members and the surrounding communities and are making sure our region is not left behind in critical access to the education, employment, healthcare and overall quality of life opportunities broadband provides.”
“United’s mission statement is ‘Enhancing the rural way of life through United.’ We live out this mission on a daily basis for our members and customers,” commented Bagley.