New Partnership to Test Models that Could Bring High-Speed Internet to Unserved and Underserved Rural North Carolinians

North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and RiverStreet Networks today announce a partnership to enable the expansion of high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved rural communities across the state. This partnership will execute several pilot demonstration projects that could become models for providing much needed high-speed internet access.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives deliver electricity to 2.5 million North Carolinians, primarily in rural areas, and recognize firsthand the benefits that would be available to their consumer-members and communities with access to high-quality, high-speed internet. Likewise, RiverStreet Networks is a fiber to the home solutions provider focused on bringing connectivity to rural areas across North Carolina. This partnership will evaluate the effectiveness of leveraging existing electric cooperative investment in fiber networks to develop models and deliver broadband service to homes and businesses in several rural North Carolina communities.

By establishing this partnership and demonstrating the feasibility of success through these pilots, electric cooperatives will facilitate their consumer-members’ participation in innovative energy solutions, like smart and connected home technologies that have become a standard in urban and suburban communities.

“From a utility standpoint, broadband technologies benefit cooperative members by allowing them to better manage their home energy use, and they will make cooperative distribution systems more dynamic, flexible and efficient,” said Joe Brannan, chief executive officer of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Not only that, but this deployment could also bring economic development, education and healthcare opportunities – by leveraging existing assets – to the parts of our state in most critical need of such services.”

“RiverStreet Networks is a subsidiary of Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation, a cooperative business with a mission of serving members, just like the electric cooperatives,” said CEO Eric Cramer. “We have a long history of collaboration with the state’s electric cooperatives, and this partnership will allow us to expand that relationship and achieve our mutual goal of providing more rural North Carolina communities with broadband connectivity.”

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives collectively serve approximately 2.5 million people in 93 of the state’s 100 counties.  As a subsidiary of Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation with more than 60 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry, RiverStreet Networks provides service in areas of North Carolina and Virginia with offerings of telephone, Internet, video, security systems and monitoring, and business solutions.