BYTE-SIZED TECH: OEC Bringing Fiber Internet to CustomersAug 13, 2018
Way back in the 1930’s, the delivery of electricity to Americans was still a relatively new-fangled thing. There were a handful of for-profit companies which were stringing wire to homes in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, there was little-to-no-profit to be found in bringing electricity to rural areas, so residents out “in the sticks” were left to fend for themselves. David Goodspeed, president of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Fiber, says OEC was one of the member-owned “co-ops” that stepped in to bring electricity to those rural residents and is now following the same course in delivering not just high-speed internet to underserved areas, they’re bringing some of the fastest speeds on the planet to folks in the OEC area.
“OEC is member-owned and member-based,” said Goodspeed. “It’s unlike for-profits in that members have a vote and input on how things are done. The members elect board members, and then those board members elect the CEO. It’s just a normal business practice after that.”
Goodspeed said OEC Fiber was founded under those same principles and an understanding that poor quality internet isn’t just a problem for rural residents, it’s also an issue for folks who live on the fringe of current coverage.
“If you go just two miles east of OU you’ll find people who are either underserved by the current internet coverage or they have no internet at all,” said Goodspeed.
OEC Social Marketing Manager, Kayla Brandt, said that just as the co-op did in the early days of electricity, OEC is stepping into the gap in a big way.
“Our tagline is ‘Taking high-speed internet where no one else will,’” said Brandt. “We believe that everyone deserves quality internet and since a lot of the for-profit internet service providers are saying they’re not interested in providing coverage, OEC believes the right thing to do is find a way to make it happen.”
Goodspeed said OEC is working to build out an ultra high-speed fiber internet system for the entire 45,000 member OEC community. Eventually, the service will also be offered to non-OEC members.
“The estimated timeline to build out the system for our entire OEC network is five years,” said Goodspeed, “But we’re working hard to get it finished in four years.”
OEC is partnering with another local company, Transtel, to build the system. Transtel’s offices, like OEC, are located in Norman. The company has been in telecommunications business since 1973 and has worked on projects across the United States and around the world. Goodspeed said a significant part of the story is that their team is an all-Oklahoma team.
“We’re all a bunch of Oklahoma kids with Oklahoma roots who grew up and want to do something great for our neighbors,” said Goodspeed.
Goodspeed said there are about nine construction crews currently at work. The plan is to connect the fiber network to the 21 OEC substations, located from Little Ax to Chickasha to Moore to Lexington. The work began on April 2 and is expected to be finished later this year. Once this initial phase is complete, Goodspeed said crews will begin to build out a system to homes through each five OEC “rings”
“Right now crews are working in all five rings,” said Goodspeed. “So the fiber will be running on communication lines, and we’ll be able to drop fiber down directly to the side of a business, home, apartment, whatever the case might be.”
Goodspeed points out that OEC’s fiber connection will be different than what is being offered by other internet service providers. Many of the for-profit internet providers will run fiber lines from their data centers to what are called “nodes.” This is called “Fiber-to-the-Node” (FTTN). The connection between the node and homes, businesses, and/or apartments is often finished out with copper cables. Fiber lines can carry exponentially more data than copper cables. OEC plans to offer “Fiber-to-the-Premises” (FTTP) which is a blanket term for Fiber-to-the-Home and Fiber-to-the-Business.
“We’re also taking fiber from the pole all the way to the side of the house and then also inside of the house,” said Goodspeed. “Copper might get you up to 250 megabytes of speed even though the fiber lines can carry 1 gigabyte. With OEC Fiber you’re not going to get any ‘up to speeds”, you’re going to get 999 megabytes of speed all the way to your house or office.”
If you’re wondering what the difference is between 250 megabytes of speed and 1 gigabyte of speed, look at it this way: a two-hour high definition movie is about 3-to-4.5GB in size. Here’s a look at the difference in download speeds:
Size 1Mbps 5Mbps 10Mbps 20Mbps 1Gbps
3-4.5GB 6 hours 72 minutes 60 minutes 32 minutes 25 seconds
Goodspeed said that kind of speed is going to become more and more critical as smart homes become the norm.
“Smartphones will be the standard of the future,” said Goodspeed. “They’ll include everything from alarm systems and smart appliances to Alexa and Apple TV devices. It will all be hooked up to wifi and the internet and will demand a lot of bandwidth.”
Bandwidth will be necessary to customers, but Brandt says fiber internet service also prevents the amount of data loss commonly associated with the current broadband internet.
“With fiber, there’s almost no data loss when you’re shooting information up and down those data lines,” said Brandt. “Without that data loss, you’re not experiencing leakage of information along the way. So what we’re sending, the customer is receiving it all.”
Then there’s the cost for service. OEC is still working on their price packages, but Brandt and Goodspeed say the co-op’s pricing structure will definitely be fair.
“We’re viewing the building the buildout of OEC Fiber through the same sort of lens as our predecessors did with OEC electric back in 1937,” said Brandt. “It’s all about improving their quality of life through the high-speed internet in the same way we did with electricity 81-years ago.”
“We’re looking at price points under $100 with constant upload and download speeds and no data cap,” said Goodspeed. “What we’re doing is eliminating data caps and saying, ‘If the price point is $50, then it’s $50 dollars, and you can take all you want.’ We’re not going to slow you down or throttle your service.”
Although no firm timetable has been set for homes to begin receiving OEC’s fiber internet service, Goodspeed says the co-op hopes it will become available later this year.
“In addition to physically building the system, we still have to figure out pricing, marketing, and billing,” said Goodspeed. “It’s actually kind of a race to see if construction gets there first, or billing gets their first, or marketing gets there first.”
For more information on OEC Fiber, you can visit: OECFiber.com and sign up for updates.