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Rural internet co-op meets with cooperative specialists
3c meets
AT THEIR MEETING, the Crawford County Comunications Cooperative got advice from the invited guests on how to proceed with providing fiber optic internet service to underserved local residents. The group included, seated from left, UW Co-op Centers Lynn Pittman, CDAs Dale Klemme, USDA-RUSs Andre Boening, USDA Co-op Specialist Margaret Blau, 3Cs Camille Smith, and 3Cs Serina Lindsley; and standing from left, 3Cs Huey Kinzie, 3Cs Jay McCloskey, 3Cs Emile Smith, and Vernon Communication Cooperative CEO Rod Olson.

SENECA- The recently incorporated Crawford County Communications Cooperative (3C Co-op) intends to build the fiber optic infrastructure to provide Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Gigabit service for the underserved rural residents of Crawford County. 

This will provide symmetrical Gigabit service, with upload and download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (megabits/second), to all of the 3,605 locations that currently have no broadband access. To achieve its goal, the project will require over 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable to be buried.   

On Monday, Nov. 19 with the assistance of Andre Boening, Wisconsin Field Rep for the Rural Utility Service Telecommunications Program, the Board of 3C Co-op met with cooperative development specialists from USDA’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) and UW’s Cooperative Center.  

Attending the meeting were Lynn Pittman from UW and Margaret Bau, a USDA Cooperative Specialist working with USDA Rural Development Innovation Center. Also on hand for the meeting were Rod Olson, CEO of Vernon Communication Cooperative, as well as consultants Dale Klemme and Lori Bekkum with Community Development Alternatives. 

“This ‘Rural Internetification’ is as crucial in the lives of rural residents as the 1930’s ‘Rural Electrification’ projects, also established by rural cooperatives and funded by USDA,” 3C Co-op Chairperson Jay McCloskey asserted.  

USDA’s RUS would provide the majority of the funding for 3C Co-op’s FTTH Project, according to McCloskey.

“Community ownership will pay off for years down the road,” the USDA’s Bau noted.  

Boening added that “the formation of 3C Co-op has the potential to bring needed cutting edge broadband to the citizens of Crawford County.”

Vernon Communications’ Olson’s invaluable input shed light on the engineering for this major infrastructure project.  

“A crew can bury five to 10 miles of cable per week, under ideal circumstances,” Olson explained. So it would appear the completion of 3C’s FTTH Project will require time, patience, and diligence.  

“Organizational priorities are our focus at the moment,” McCloskey said.  

There was robust discussion about co-op membership issues, especially relating to funding and building the infrastructure in phases.  

The 3C Co-op Board is committed to installing service to as many residents as possible in the shortest possible time. 

“I love the 3C Board’s ‘can-do’ spirit,” USDA official Bau remarked at one point.

“The cooperative approach has long been one way for communities to effectively meet their needs for goods and services,” UW’s Pittman said. “It is exciting to see 3C Co-op moving to further explore and develop this option as a way to meet community broadband needs.”

 “The lack of adequate internet severely affects us all,” said the 3C Board’s Member At Large, Huey Kinzie. “Residents acting together as a cooperative can make fiber to our homes become a reality!  Community support of 3C Co-op and its Gigabit FTTH Project is the key.  We all need to get involved and make our voices heard.  As co-op members, we will be the collective owners of the co-op and its infrastructure.” 

Email Info@3C.Coopfor information about how you can assist and get involved, or call 608-735-4322.