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This week: We hear from United Fiber's Darren Farnan and Calix's Matt Collins about United Fiber's work to close Northwest Missouri's digital divide and how the companies have partnered to deliver additional community benefits.

Nicole Ferraro

February 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • History of United Electric Cooperative's entrance into fiber broadband and current state of United Fiber's footprint (03:50)
  • How Calix's managed services are helping United Fiber stay competitive (12:09)
  • The role BEAD funds may (or may not) play in expanding United Fiber's footprint (24:55)

This episode features Matt Collins, chief commercial operations officer at Calix, and Darren Farnan, general manager of fiber operations at United Fiber, a broadband provider in rural northwest Missouri and a subsidiary of United Electric Cooperative.

United Electric Cooperative first started building out its fiber network over a decade ago, with the help of a $21 million grant from the American Recovery Act (ARA) back in 2010, and it started connecting commercial customers in 2013. Since then, the network has grown to reach more than 50 communities and 33,000 subscribers, with 800 to 1,000 new subscribers being activated each month, according to United Fiber's Farnan.

We discuss what broadband access was like in that region of Missouri when United Electric decided to build out a fiber network, and the benefits that connectivity has brought to the local communities since then. We also discuss the role that Calix's services are playing in United Fiber's overall success in the rural communities it serves, how the companies are each preparing to engage with the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program – plus their note of caution for state broadband offices – and more.

Here are some topics we cover:

  • History of United Electric Cooperative's entrance into the fiber broadband space and current state of United Fiber's footprint (03:50)

  • The funds and regulatory factors that have helped with United Fiber's expansion (09:30)

  • Calix's partnership with United Fiber and the role its services are playing in United Fiber's operations and overall reach (12:09)

  • How United Fiber communicates its value to the communities it serves (23:10)

  • The role BEAD may (or may not) play in expanding United Fiber's footprint, and concerns about small providers' ability to participate in the program (24:55)

  • How Calix is helping service providers navigate BEAD's complexity (26:09)

Related:The Divide: Calix CEO Michael Weening on enabling the broadband disruptors

For a lightly edited transcript, click the caption button on the player above.

Read more about:

The Divide

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

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