Dixie Electric is committed to innovative technology and providing the membership with the latest products and services. When it comes to addressing high-speed internet service, final decisions will only be made after detailed studies and careful planning are completed.
Offering high-speed internet services would be a new business venture for us, and it’s full of unfamiliar business practices, technology and equipment. However, we promise our members if a decision is made to enter into the business, it will be a product that would be reliable and affordable. A project of this type will not be successful if we do not have a large percentage of our members wanting the service.
Each component of the internet service business must be considered before proceeding with building a ground-up system for high-speed internet: financing, planning, design, engineering, construction, installing fiber, marketing the service, enrolling members and placing equipment in homes and businesses.
Your board and management team continue to work with outside consultants and other resources to obtain all of the knowledge available. Before making a decision, we will know as much as possible about this unique business model and the products and services our members want and need.
High Speed Internet Pilot Project
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the lack of true high-speed internet services across our state as Mississippians have been forced to shelter in place at home. Dixie Electric and other electric power associations are partnering with the legislature in jump-starting high-speed internet service in an area that is mostly unserved or underserved as a long-term solution to this glaring problem. The Mississippi legislature approved $65 million in grant funding from the CARES stimulus funds. Fifteen electric cooperatives submitted grant applications, that included plans for small-scale projects, for a portion of this funding.
Dixie Electric’s small project or pilot project would be approximately 206 miles of fiber optic cable to be installed roughly from Ovett southeast down Highway 15 towards the Good Hope community and down Highway 29 through Runnelstown and across east on Highway 42. There is a map included to provide specific details on the roads or communities that would be included.
The area chosen for the pilot project was based on three criteria, which were either outlined in the grant application or are best practices for designing the fiber optic system:
1. The area must be defined as an un- or underserved census block for high-speed internet service by the Federal Communications Commission;
2. The project ideally would include more than one county;
3. The fiber build-out for the project needs to be built in one electric substation area.
The area chosen for this pilot project met these criteria.
High Speed Internet Guide
The decision to deploy high-speed internet to Dixie Electric’s entire electrical system depends on several factors.
1. A vote “in favor” of the resolution to change Dixie Electric’s Certificate of Incorporation to include the ability to provide high-speed internet services is critical. If this resolution fails, there cannot be any further expansion of high-speed internet services. This vote will be conducted through our 2020 Annual Meeting elections. Dixie Electric members can vote online at dixieepa.com or by returning their mail-in ballot.
2. The success of the pilot project is important. One measurement of success will be the number of members in the project area who sign up for and purchase high-speed internet services. Pre-register for service in our pilot project areas here.
3. The ability of Dixie Electric or its subsidiary to acquire additional grant funds. Due to the very large expense of implementing high-speed internet to Dixie Electric’s entire system, acquiring grant funds will be crucial.
The expansion into other areas cannot be decided until the pilot project nears a successful completion, which will be in early 2021.
An aerial fiber to the home (FTTH) high-speed fiber-optic network will be constructed on Dixie Electric’s existing electric distribution infrastructure and will be physically connected to your home or business. We consider this network to be the most future-proof technology available.
A fiber optic network consists of long, thin strands of glass arranged in an insulated cable and each optical fiber has the ability to transmit data in light waves with great bandwidth. Fiber transmits data faster over longer distances than copper and with less signal degradation and no latency issues.
Network speeds of 100 megabits per second (MBPS) to 1,000 MBPS (gigabit service) will be available. A megabit is the download rate of an internet connection. Gigabit service is 200X the typical DSL download speed. Dixie Electric’s internet service will be symmetrical meaning that the upload speed will be the same as the download speed. If you subscribe to the 100 MBPS service, then you will get that speed whether downloading or uploading.
Under the Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, Dixie Electric must provide this internet service through an operating subsidiary that is separate from Dixie Electric. Dixie Electric formed DE Fastlink, LLC as a subsidiary to provide this service in September 2020.
Dixie Electric is studying its pricing strategy, but the goal is to provide the services at a reasonable price that recovers costs plus a reasonable rate of return. An announcement will be made when pricing information is available.
The cost for Dixie Electric or its subsidiary to provide high speed internet would be approximately $100 million. Substantial funding would be necessary through grants from the Federal Communications Commission and the Rural Utilities Service. Obtaining funds from grants and loans through these agencies is a competitive process with many different criteria that must be met.
No. Under the Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, an electric cooperative cannot use energy sales revenue to subsidize broadband services. This means establishing a separate broadband company or offering the service through an affiliate. By creating this separate entity, members' electric bills will not be affected by offering internet services.