Pea River Electric Cooperative held a press conference at the Henry County Courthouse in downtown Abbeville on Monday, October 17 to announce the roll-out of the utility’s new high speed, fiber-based broadband project, which will bring the highest available broadband speeds across previously unserved areas of Barbour, Dale and Henry counties.
Jeff Hodges, Chief Executive Officer of Pea River Electric Cooperative, explained that the decision to provide broadband service will enable the Co-op to bolster their commitment to the communities it serves. The Pea River board voted in May to proceed with plans to pursue the project. “We are confident we have made a decision that will enable our rural communities to grow and thrive,” Hodges said. “Just like in 1938 when this cooperative was formed to bring electricity to the unserved rural areas, this board stepped forward to bring an essential service to our members.”
The impact of installing fiber broadband internet in a rural community is monumental. Fiber optic service is linked to lower unemployment rates, job growth, population growth, higher home values and higher rates of new business formation. Pea River broadband will assist and empower every person in the community, including manufacturers, farmers, teachers, students and entrepreneurs. “This is not just a Pea River announcement,” Hodges said. “This is an Education, Healthcare, and Economic announcement for the three-county area.”
Engineering work has already begun on the fiber routes. Construction is expected to begin in December of this year. “We will serve our first customer this year,” Hodges said. He explained the project would be built in loops. It is anticipated that the first loop will be completed in one year. And that the entire $75 million project will be completed in under three years. “When the system is complete, we will have built over 2,100 miles of fiber in less than three years. That is enough fiber to stretch from here to San Diego, California,” he said.
A good crowd was on hand for the formal announcement including Dale, Henry and Barbour County government officials. Others speaking at the event included State Rep. Dexter Grimsley, State Sen. Billy Beasley, and State Sen. Donnie Chesteen. State Rep. Barry Forte and State Rep. Steve Clouse were also on hand to answer questions about grant incentives from the state and federal level that will help to finance the project.
Pea River Electric is a not-for-profit, member-owned distribution cooperative located in Ozark, Alabama. They serve electricity to approximately 19,000 members in Barbour, Dale, Henry and Coffee counties in southeast Alabama.