Cullman Electric considering getting into the internet business

Discussing the fiber optic project Cullman Electric Cooperative is planning, from l-r: Terry Graham, key accounts and manager of Cullman Electric’s branch in Addison; State Representative Tim Wadsworth, State Senator Greg Reed and State Senator Garlan Gudger.

ADDISON   - Internet service for the eastern side of Winston County is about to get a whole lot faster, thanks to a $21.5 million loan agreement, allowing Cullman Electric Co-op to build a fiber optic network among its substations, eventually improving internet service to customers along these routes.
Cullman Electric has filed a petition with the Alabama Department of Finance for consent to execute a loan agreement and secured  a promissory note of $21,550,000 to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, according to a copy of a legal notice about the project printed in the Alabamian May 6.  The board of trustees for Cullman Electric has approved a project to begin installing high speed fiber optic cable to connect the co-op’s 15 substations in their coverage area, including Winston, Cullman, Morgan and Lawrence counties.
“High speed internet will be available to all of the communities in our service area,” stressed Brian Lacy, communications director for Cullman Electric Co-op.
“We are connecting our substations on a level that is going to initially give us communication and connectivity between our substations,” Lacy pointed out. “Having the fiber is opening the door for us to look into bringing it to our communities. We can’t do that without the fiber network being there.”
Due to the connection of high speed internet fiber among the substations, communication back to the main office will increase  when an outage occurs and troubleshooting is needed quickly to solve the problem, officials said.
“Without having to first send people out into the field in some instances to find out what is wrong, we’ll be able to see at the office on some occasions what has caused the power outage,” said Lacy.  “This means we can get a crew with the correct materials out to fix it faster. That results in a shorter duration of power outages.”
The installation of this fiber network between the substations also brings in the possibility of high speed internet service to more rural areas, which have been in need of this service for some time, Lacy pointed out. This will be another phase of this multi-faceted project.
“Our board is still looking at that.  We have not announced a final decision on when or if we would do fiber internet to the home,” Lacy said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting closures has brought to light why high-speed internet service is more valuable now than ever before.
“This current situation with COVID-19 has further emphasized that,” said Lacy. “We’re seeing with kids doing school work from home, the number of people who are working from home, all of the churches that are streaming their services right now on Sundays---having a fiber network makes those better,” Lacy continued.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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