Suwannee Valley Electric Co-Op to build fiber-optic network reaching rural customers

LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV) – The Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative announced Tuesday its plan to build a fiber-optic network stretching across Hamilton, Lafayette and Suwannee counties, optimizing its electric grid and bringing high-speed internet to its customers.

The press release says the network will shorten power outage response times and bring greater efficiency in general as it enhances the flow of data to detect faults and control electrical devices throughout the smart grid.

Construction for the project is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2023, with the first internet customers expected to be connected in that year’s third quarter.

“The goal is to ultimately extend fiber internet access to all SVEC consumer-members, if possible,” the press release says.

SVEC expects the network to take four years to complete and cost up to $93 million. It will span over 4,100 miles of line to deliver high-speed fiber internet to homes, farms and businesses in SVEC’s service territory. This includes northern Columbia County.

The high-speed internet service will be provided to SVEC customers via its newly formed subsidiary Rapid Fiber Internet.

Rapid Fiber Internet will offer consumers access to upload and download of up to two gigabits per second.

“Today, like many other parts of rural America, our area finds itself on the wrong side of a ‘digital divide,’ being underserved or unserved by internet providers. In the same spirit as before, the cooperative once again endeavors to provide for a vital unmet need in our community,” said SVEC CEO Mike McWaters.

Conexon, a rural fiber-optic network design and construction management leader, was selected to support the co-op’s project.

“We are excited to work closely with a trusted partner like Conexon to bring high-speed internet services to our part of rural Florida,” said McWaters. “Conexon brings expertise and years of experience in fiber to the home systems for cooperatives across the country, and we are confident that together, we will achieve great results for our community, ushering in a new era of innovation and opportunity.”

Conexon founding partner Randy Klindt says it’s proud to work with SVEC to provide world-class broadband services, which serve as an educational and economic equalizer for rural communities.

“It represents a tremendous commitment from the cooperative that will benefit consumers for generations to come,” Klindt says.

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