Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative Brings Their Journey Full Circle
Over 80 years ago the Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative (CCEC) was founded to bring electricity to an area where “for-profit” electric providers were unlikely to bring service. Located in Port Orford, Oregon in the southwestern corner of the state, CCEC has over 14,000 members and over 18,000 meters. Their service area follows the coastline north from the California border through picturesque mountain terrain, scenic forests, and breathtaking ocean views. Both the weather and terrain pose unique challenges in terms of construction and operating costs.
Fast forward to 2019, the cooperative’s concern for the community came full circle to address another need for its members – high-speed broadband. CCEC believed that like electricity, access to high-speed internet was an essential service for their members. While there were some established broadband providers in certain parts of CCEC’s service territory, many of their members were severely underserved in terms of high-speed connectivity and many residents depended on satellite or cellular data plans for their internet. In today’s technology-driven world, these options were proving to be less than adequate for their members.
With the establishment of fiber infrastructure throughout their territory, CCEC would have better management of their power grid, a reduction in outages, and a decrease in time needed to restore power. Also, within their territory, the improved communication would increase security at remote locations therefore reducing theft and vandalism.
Better Connections Start with Fiber
CCEC began frequent and regular planning discussions around the viability of a fiber broadband project. They also did a feasibility study to gain a better fiscal understanding of a project of this size and scope.
With the coronavirus accelerating the need for bringing high-speed connectivity to their members, the cooperative applied for federal grant programs and in 2020 their project was approved to move forward.
Full Steam Ahead
In December 2020, CCEC created its fiber broadband subsidiary, Beacon Broadband, to help close the digital divide in their area.
There are many pieces that make up a project of this size. While some of these elements can be done concurrently, others must be done in phases. Design and engineering, business development planning, utility locations and trenching, fiber hut construction, mapping, make-ready construction, equipment and supply procurement, and the groundwork for service drops are all part of the process that needed to be done prior to actual installation.
With the overall fiber build projected to take 3-5 years to complete, meaning a target of 2026 for completion, this fiber-to-the home project will encompass over 1,400 miles of fiber optic cable spanning CCEC’s entire electrical footprint and will pass over 20,000 homes and businesses when fully completed.
Strategic Partnerships are an Integral Part of Broadband Expansion
As Beacon Broadband was making the jump to broadband, they chose one of CCEC’s long-standing trusted providers on the electrical side to partner with them on their broadband project. Beacon Broadband selected Wesco for their sourcing and procurement experience, as well as their expertise with large scale broadband projects.
Once Wesco was brought into the project, they went to work strategizing with Beacon Broadband on ways to cost-effectively speed deployment of their network. Wesco would be providing over 160+ component parts necessary for the fiber network over the course of the project. This included fiber, duct, pedestals, splice kits, strand, lashing wire, hardware and more. It also meant assisting Beacon Broadband with a variety of supply chain services.
Wesco utilized the expertise of their own internal team for unique ways to solve the challenges that Beacon Broadband was facing. One of those challenges involved sourcing and setting up a temporary facility and outdoor yard to house inventory for the project. They needed a facility that was close to their construction path to make it easy for construction crews to pick up supplies. Having been involved with a multitude of these types of projects, Wesco’s real estate team went to work to find a location and put together financial models. Wesco’s operations team sourced racking, material handling equipment, warehouse equipment and supplies, and hired the needed labor to oversee the warehouse and to manage the inventory. Wesco’s Broadband Support Center (BSC) and their implementation team played an integral part in the initial planning and procurement of the project. The BSC will continue to project manage throughout the various phases of construction, having weekly meetings with Beacon Broadband, the construction team, sales, and the warehouse manager to ensure a successful fiber build.
As the project moved forward, Wesco set-up an additional contractor yard location to service the construction phase near the Gold Beach location.
Wesco’s sourcing and procurement team ensures that the materials for each phase of the project are available and delivered on schedule. Once the components are delivered to the warehouse location, they become customer-owned inventory. Beacon Broadband did not have an inventory tracking system to manage and track movement of this inventory, so Wesco put together a custom tracking system. Beacon Broadband is now able to easily monitor usage and inventory.
Beacon Broadband Blazing a Trail
It was always the intent of the cooperative to fuel the economy in their area by sourcing local workers when possible. CCEC brought in a local IBEW contractor who had been working with CCEC for many years on large-scale electrical distribution projects. They knew the local terrain and many of their workers were also members of the cooperative. CCEC provided jobs to local workers as well as job training on high-speed fiber construction and installation to the community.
Broadband Fits the Cooperative’s Community Spirit
High-speed connectivity is a critical infrastructure. In this area of rural southwestern Oregon, it is crucial to economic growth, access to healthcare through telemedicine, improving public services and safety, remote work opportunities and enriching educational opportunities. As the project moves forward, it will help bridge the digital divide in Curry and unincorporated Coos counties.
Building Broadband Together
The collaboration between Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, Beacon Broadband and Wesco is a textbook effort in why partnerships play a critical role in a successful broadband deployment. Being able to build on an already established and trusted working relationship and take it to the next level, makes a difference in achieving your broadband expansion goals.