NHEC Wins $50 Million Grant to Expand Rural Broadband

PLYMOUTH, NH (October 19, 2022)New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has been awarded a $50 million grant to expand its fiber-optic broadband internet service to more than 23,000 homes, businesses and municipalities in 73 New Hampshire towns.

The grant, awarded by the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA) following a competitive bid process, is part of $221 million in federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act to expand broadband access in New Hampshire.

“This is great news for the thousands of NHEC members who’ve had to make do with slow internet service, or in some cases, no service at all,” said NHEC President/CEO Alyssa Clemsen Roberts. “NHEC is a member-owned, nonprofit electric cooperative and our business is providing essential services to rural New Hampshire. We welcome the opportunity to provide much-needed high-speed internet to the same areas that NHEC first electrified more than 80 years ago. Grant funding is helpful to our plans to reach all underserved members, and we are grateful for the trust placed in us by the BEA to get the job done.”

NHEC and its partners have already begun pre-construction work in Grafton County, where fiber-optic networks will be built in the coming months to serve NHEC members in 32 towns. It marks the largest expansion to date in NHEC’s efforts to make high-speed internet available to underserved parts of the state.

Through its subsidiary, NH Broadband, NHEC has built fiber-optic networks providing high-speed internet service to residents in Acworth, Clarksville, Colebrook, Lempster, Sandwich and Stewartstown. Grant funds awarded by the BEA will enable the construction of additional fiber-optic networks to serve members in parts of Grafton, Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Sullivan and Merrimack counties.

NH Broadband’s fiber-optic networks can provide upload and download speeds in excess of 2 Gigabits per second to meet NHEC’s members’ needs today and into the future. NHEC has partnered with rural fiber-optic construction leader Conexon to provide a comprehensive range of services including network design, construction project management, engineering, and operations support. Additionally, through its internet service provider subsidiary, Conexon Connect, the company is also providing services including customer sign-ups, installations, billing, technical support and access to multi-gigabit speed packages.

In this early stage of planning, service availability dates are not yet available for Grafton County towns, or towns located in other counties. A full schedule of towns and areas to be served will be made available as construction plans are confirmed.

However, all NHEC members can go online now at www.NHBroadband.com to select a speed package and express their interest in receiving service. NH Broadband will be in direct contact with members when expected service dates by town are established.

 

About NHEC & NH Broadband

NHEC is a member-led electric distribution cooperative serving 86,000 homes and businesses in 118 New Hampshire communities. Learn more at www.NHEC.com.

NH Broadband was founded in 2020 to provide high-speed internet access to all NHEC members who lack it. Since then, NH Broadband has built fiber-optic networks and is currently serving members in Acworth Colebrook, Stewartstown, Clarksville, Lempster and Sandwich. Follow construction updates and learn more at www.NHBroadband.com.

With Arrival of Broadband At Last, Sandwich Celebrates a Milestone

SANDWICH, NH – Throughout its modern history, the residents of Sandwich, NH could only hear the distant sound of the information superhighway as it passed them by. But with the start of NH Broadband fiber-optic internet service to town, they’ve got their own onramp and all the benefits it brings.

Internet speeds up to 2 gigabits per second are now available to New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) members in Sandwich, thanks in large part to the persistent advocacy of its townspeople.

The town played an important role in the drive to improve high-speed internet access in rural New Hampshire. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sandwich Broadband Advisory Committee and town officials were lobbying for providers to do more to reach unserved and underserved residents. Richard Knox, a member of the Sandwich Broadband Advisory Committee and Chair of NH Broadband Advocates, called the start of fiber-optic broadband service to Sandwich “momentous.”

“When a small group of frustrated Sandwich residents nudged NHEC toward getting into broadband, we had no notion that a pandemic would magnify the need. Or that rural broadband would become a bipartisan issue in Congress and our state,” Knox said. “We’re proud to think that we began something that will benefit many other rural communities.”

For Joanne Haight, Chair of the Sandwich Select Board, the start of NH Broadband service in Sandwich is the realization of a community goal that was a long time in coming.

“The work began in early 2019 and those of us involved thought the pathway to securing a fiber-optic network in a small, rural community of over 90 square miles was nearly impossible, but today it is here,” Haight said. “Thanks to the pioneering spirit of NHEC, NH Broadband and a resident-driven initiative, the town of Sandwich has access to a fast, affordable fiber-optic network.”

NH Broadband, NHEC’s internet subsidiary, now serves NHEC members in six towns, and is currently expanding its fiber-optic networks to serve members in more than 30 towns in Grafton County, which has some of the highest concentrations of New Hampshire residents who lack access to high-speed internet. NHEC and its project partner, Conexon, continue to pursue federal and state grant funds to support the construction of fiber-optic networks in areas that lack high-speed options. Construction of the expansive fiber-optic network in Sandwich, which required the installation of 107 miles of fiber-optic lines, was supported in part by a $1.6 million grant secured by Congressman Chris Pappas.

“We’re proud to have worked with our members in Sandwich to achieve this important milestone,” remarked Alyssa Clemsen Roberts, the President/CEO of NHEC and CEO of NH Broadband. “Broadband internet is no longer a luxury, it’s an essential service that NHEC is committed to providing to all our members who need it. We see the difference that reliable, high-speed internet makes in the life of a small community, and we can’t wait to see it repeated across the state as we reach more members.”

To follow construction updates and service dates when they become available, please visit www.NHBroadband.com.

NHEC, Conexon Announce Partnership for Broadband Expansion

PLYMOUTH, NH – New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) is expanding its partnership with rural fiber-optic network design and construction management leader Conexon to bring fiber-to-the-home service across the cooperative’s territory.

NHEC and Conexon have already worked together to provide gigabit speed internet access to two communities, Acworth and Sandwich, and will soon expand to 32 communities throughout Grafton County. NH Broadband, the co-op’s fiber subsidiary, will ultimately offer high-speed fiber internet service that spans nine counties and nearly 120 communities. Service is available today for customers in Acworth, Sandwich, Clarksville, Colebrook, Lempster and Stewartstown, and the first customers in Grafton County are expected to be connected in the first quarter of 2023.

Conexon is providing a comprehensive range of fiber broadband services including network design, construction project management, engineering and operations support. Additionally, through its internet service provider subsidiary, Conexon Connect, the company is also providing services including customer sign-ups, installations, billing, technical support and access to multi-gigabit speed packages.

“Making high-speed, affordable internet available to all of our members who need it is a major undertaking, on par with the effort to bring light and power to these same locations more than 80 years ago. We’re thrilled to have Conexon’s resources and experience available as we work to bring this next essential service to our members,” said NHEC President/CEO Alyssa Clemsen Roberts.

“We’re excited to build on our current relationship with New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and make a difference in the lives of even more residents who are currently unserved or underserved with broadband,” Conexon Founding Partner Randy Klindt said. “We are pleased to have such a positive and productive partnership with Alyssa and her team, one that enables us to further our mission of closing the digital divide.”

The lightning-fast fiber-optic network offered by NH Broadband will give members access to symmetrical multi-gigabit internet capabilities – among the fastest and most robust in the nation. Additionally, it will enable enhancements and smart grid capabilities to the electrical infrastructure, including improved power outage response times, better load balancing and more efficient electricity delivery.

Conexon brings to the project unmatched experience and expertise in deploying rural FTTH networks. The company has designed more than 200,000 miles of fiber for cooperative projects and builds more than 50,000 fiber miles of fiber annually. In addition, Conexon has created a broad ecosystem of equipment and labor resources specializing in rural fiber builds. Since forming six years ago, Conexon has assisted nearly 275 electric cooperatives, 75 of which are deploying fiber networks, with more than 500,000 connected fiber-to-the-home subscribers across the U.S.

About NH Electric Cooperative

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is a member-owned not-for-profit electric utility, headquartered in Plymouth, N.H.  NHEC connects its 85,000 members through 6,000 miles of energized lines, crossing 118 communities throughout New Hampshire.

 About Conexon

Conexon works with Rural Electric Cooperatives to bring fiber to the home in rural communities. The company is comprised of professionals who have worked in electric cooperatives and the telecommunications industry, and offer decades of individual experience in business planning, building networks, marketing and selling telecommunications. Conexon offers its electric cooperative clients end-to-end broadband deployment and operations support, from a project’s conception all the way through to its long-term sustainability. It works with clients to analyze economic feasibility, secure financing, design the network, manage construction, provide operational support, optimize business performance and determine optimal partnerships. To date, Conexon has assisted more than 275 electric cooperatives, 60 of which are deploying fiber networks, with more than 500,000 rural Americans connected to fiber to the home. The company has secured nearly $2 billion in federal, state and local grants and subsidies for its clients.

Acworth, NHEC Celebrate a Rural Broadband Milestone

Acworth, NHEC Celebrate a Rural Broadband Milestone

ACWORTH, NH – It used to take more than 18 hours for the United Church of Acworth to upload one weekly church service to the internet, recalled parishioner Sally Eaton, if its slow connection didn’t time out first. But since the launch this month of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s (NHEC) town-wide fiber-optic service, the job is done in minutes.

“Our mission is to share our services with everyone, and this is making it much easier to do that,” Eaton told a gathering of town officials, residents and others celebrating the arrival July 14 of high-speed internet to this Sullivan County town of fewer than a thousand residents. Some parishioners are not physically able to attend services, Eaton explained, others are traveling but want to feel part of the congregation when they’re away. A new 1-Gig fiber internet connection in the historic church is already providing new ways to bring people together in a place that’s been the center of town life for more than 200 years.

The start of service to Acworth this month marks the fifth town that NHEC has connected to broadband internet via its subsidiary, NH Broadband. Fiber-optic networks built in Colebrook, Clarksville, Stewartstown and Lempster are online and serving NHEC members in locations where high-speed service options have been limited or non-existent. NHEC and NH Broadband will start service to the Town of Sandwich later this summer, and recently announced plans to expand into more than 30 Grafton County towns in the next 18 months.

“All the credit goes to you, the members,” said NHEC Board Chair Jeffrey Morrill, explaining that NHEC’s push for high-speed internet access began as a member-driven response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed New Hampshire’s digital divide and made rural access to high-speed internet “an essential service.”

Gregg Thibodeau, an Acworth resident and Lead of the Acworth Broadband Committee, said that townspeople had been getting by with slow connections for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need for faster service that could keep up with the new demand for bandwidth.

“On behalf of the several hundred anxious, internet customers in town, I can’t begin to tell you what high speed broadband service means to them,” Thibodeau said. “And even though COVID is abating, we are not likely to turn back the clock on the internet demand. More often folks are looking for jobs online, remote working opportunities, training, and schooling, which can be very time consuming and limited in our rural community.”

Thibodeau said high-speed internet is also helping his work on the Acworth Conservation Commission, as the group seeks to protect and conserve the town’s resources.

“We need access to online tools and data, such as GRANITView, ARCGIS, NH Fish & Game and DES studies and maps and UNH’s Cooperative Extension information. Accessing layers of maps for two or three properties in GRANITView was a two-to-four-hour exercise for me, now it takes minutes.”

PHOTO CAPTION:

Celebrating a rural broadband milestone in Acworth on July 14 were representatives of the Town of Acworth, state government, United Church of Acworth, NHEC, NH Broadband and its project partners.

NHEC to Expand NH Broadband Fiber-optic Network to 32 Grafton County Towns

PLYMOUTH, NH (March 1, 2022) – New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s (NHEC) Board of Directors has voted to move forward with a major expansion of the Co-op’s broadband efforts. The Board authorized NH Broadband, the Co-op’s internet subsidiary, to proceed with construction of fiber-optic networks that will provide high-speed internet service to nearly 17,000 homes and businesses in 32 towns across Grafton County, one of the most underserved areas of the state. This project does not require bonding or other financial commitment by the towns.

Grafton County has a high concentration of areas that do not have access to broadband internet. Last year, NHEC secured funding to help provide these unserved areas with fiber-optic, high-speed internet service through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. NHEC’s expansion in Grafton County will focus on reaching these unserved members.

NHEC is moving forward with the planning and development of its Grafton County expansion to meet its members’ critical need for high-speed internet as quickly as possible. While work gets underway, NHEC will be pursuing grant opportunities that the State of New Hampshire will make available in the near future from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Grafton County project will help bridge the digital divide for residents in some of the most underserved areas of the state, with the goal of completing construction in 18 months.

“This expansion is a milestone for rural broadband access in New Hampshire,” said NHEC Board Chair Jeffrey Morrill. “Just two years ago we were in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and thousands of our members were quite literally cut off from a world that went virtual nearly overnight. It speaks to the value of member-owned cooperatives like NHEC that can respond quickly and effectively to the needs of its members. I’m proud of the work NHEC and the Board have done to lead the effort for universal broadband access in New Hampshire.”

“High-speed internet has been a long time coming to rural New Hampshire,” said NH Broadband Chair and NHEC Board member Leo Dwyer. “This expansion of NH Broadband’s network will connect thousands of NHEC members to an essential service in a part of the state that really needs it. It’s what we and our members envisioned when they asked us to provide broadband internet service in 2020. In many ways, it mirrors the Co-op’s drive to bring light and power to the same areas more than 80 years ago.”

NH Broadband’s fiber-optic networks are capable of providing upload and download speeds in excess of 1 Gigabit per second to meet NHEC’s members’ needs today and into the future. The service will be offered to NHEC members in the following Grafton County towns:

Ashland, Bath, Benton, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton, Canaan, Dorchester, Easton, Ellsworth, Grafton, Groton, Hanover, Haverhill, Hebron, Holderness, Landaff, Lisbon, Littleton, Lyman, Monroe, New Hampton, Orange, Orford, Piermont, Plymouth, Rumney, Sugar Hill, Thornton, Warren, Wentworth, Woodstock.

One of the NHEC members looking forward to receiving service said NH Broadband’s expansion is good news for rural residents across the state.

“I respect and appreciate the responsiveness of the Co-op to this member initiative,” said Richard Knox of New Hampshire Broadband Advocates, a grassroots group that has advocated for expanded broadband access in the state. “It signifies that NHEC means business when it says it wants to provide this essential service to rural towns overlooked by other internet providers.”

In 2020, with support from the Connecting New Hampshire – Emergency Broadband Expansion Program, NHEC constructed fiber-optic networks that provided over 1,000 of its members high-speed internet access in Lempster, Colebrook, Stewartstown, and Clarksville. In 2021, NHEC began the construction of fiber-optic networks in Acworth and Sandwich, which will make broadband available to another 1,800 homes and businesses. The Sandwich and Acworth projects are supported by a grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), and federal funding that Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congressman Chris Pappas are working to secure. NHEC also anticipates applying for funds from ARPA.

In this early stage of planning, service availability dates by town are not yet available for Grafton County towns included in the network expansion. However, NH Broadband will be posting construction updates and other news on its website: www.NHBroadband.com and on its Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/NHBroadband.

NHEC Has Contracted with Conexon for Next Steps on Major Fiber-Optic Broadband Project

PLYMOUTH, NH (December 16, 2021) – New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has entered into a contract with Conexon, a national fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) rural broadband solutions provider that works exclusively with electric cooperatives, to deliver high-speed internet to NHEC members in 118 communities who now lack it.

The contract will enable NHEC’s new subsidiary, NH Broadband, to take the next steps in its plan to ensure that all NHEC members have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet.

A rural fiber-optic network design and construction management leader, Conexon works exclusively with rural electric cooperatives to design and build state-of-the-art fiber-optic networks. This year Conexon will complete construction of over 40,000 miles of fiber-optic networks for cooperatives across the country.

Conexon will work with NH Broadband to bring fiber-optic service to a wide area of rural New Hampshire that has been largely overlooked by existing internet providers. NH Broadband’s plan is to construct networks utilizing the latest XGS-PON technology. These networks will be capable of symmetrical download and upload speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second – a technology that can meet the needs of NHEC members today and well into the future.

Through this relationship with Conexon, NH Broadband will begin critical planning and pre-construction work, positioning itself to hit the ground running when grant opportunities become available. As funding is secured, NH Broadband’s goal is to construct fiber-optic networks that ensure all 85,000 NHEC members in 118 communities across nine counties have access to high-speed internet. Under this plan, NH Broadband will make significant progress towards bridging the rural digital divide in New Hampshire.

The critical effort to expand rural broadband access gained new urgency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as the rapid shift to remote work and learning left many rural residents with slow or no internet connectivity struggling to keep up. As it did in the 1930s, when it brought electricity to rural New Hampshire, NHEC is committed to making this equally essential service available to all its members.

The project builds upon NHEC’s current FTTH project encompassing two of the cooperative’s communities, Acworth and Sandwich, that will provide fiber-optic access to nearly 1,800 underserved homes and businesses. Those networks are scheduled to go online in early 2022. One year ago, NH Broadband connected its first customers in Lempster, Colebrook, Stewartstown and Clarksville, when it completed fiber-optic networks utilizing a grant from the Connecting NH Emergency Broadband Expansion Program. Those networks are currently providing over 1,000 previously unserved NHEC members with access to world-class high-speed internet service.

“We are thrilled to work closely with Conexon for this undertaking,” said NH Broadband’s executive chair, Leo Dwyer. “With their expertise and the pending availability of federal and state grants, a wide swath of rural New Hampshire will finally be connected to priceless economic, educational and lifestyle opportunities that have been beyond reach until now.”

“We’re very excited to work with the New Hampshire Electric management team and board to serve their members with fiber broadband,” Conexon Founding Partner Randy Klindt said. “New Hampshire is in desperate need of world-class broadband and this project will go a long way in closing the digital divide within the state. It’s going to be transformative.”

About NH Broadband

NH Broadband (NHB) is a subsidiary of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC), which serves 85,000 members in 118 New Hampshire communities. NHB collaborates with industry partners, municipalities, and counties in the pursuit of better connectivity for the people of New Hampshire. NHB is developing fiber-to-the-home networks capable of up to 1 Gigabit symmetrical upload and download speeds.

 About Conexon

Conexon works with Rural Electric Cooperatives to bring fiber to the home in rural communities. The company is composed of professionals who have worked in electric cooperatives and the telecommunications industry, and offer decades of individual experience in business planning, building networks, marketing and selling telecommunications. Conexon offers its electric cooperative clients end-to-end broadband deployment and operations support, from a project’s inception all the way through to its long-term sustainability. It works with clients to analyze economic feasibility, secure financing, design the network, manage construction, provide operational support, optimize business performance and determine optimal partnerships. To date, Conexon has assisted nearly 200 electric cooperatives, nearly 50 of which are deploying fiber networks, with more than 150,000 connected fiber-to-the-home subscribers across the U.S. The company has secured over $1.3 billion in federal and state funding for its clients.