Conexon Teams Up with Seven Mississippi Electric Cooperatives to Leverage $30M in CARES Act Funding

  • Conexon

KANSAS CITY, MO — In the wake of CARES Act grant funding awarded through the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff, Conexon, a provider of rural fiber-optic network design and construction management, and seven Mississippi electric power association (EPA) clients are prepared to immediately begin building fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks.

Conexon clients, Coast Electric Power Association (Coast Electric), Delta EPA, East Mississippi EPA, Monroe County EPA, Natchez Trace EPA, North East Mississippi EPA, and Tombigbee EPA, have collectively been awarded more than $30 million to deploy fiber networks, with the first customers expected to be connected by October. In less than six months, these EPAs will build over 2,000 miles of fiber making service available to over 40,000 unserved rural Mississippians. 

"There's something pretty special happening in rural Mississippi," Conexon Partner Jonathan Chambers said. "The first electric co-ops in the nation were formed in Mississippi. And now, over 80 years later, these same co-ops are collectively building more fiber miles to more rural homes than anywhere in the country.

"Two-and-a-half years ago, when Michael Callahan (Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi executive vice president/CEO) invited us to Mississippi to describe what Conexon was doing working with co-ops to build fiber networks, I suspect most of the co-ops were skeptical. Even after the Mississippi legislature passed a new law allowing co-ops to enter the broadband business, I suspect most of the legislators were skeptical. Now that 15 of the state's 25 co-ops have been awarded CARES funding and more still will be bidding in the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction this fall, maybe there are fewer skeptics."

Mississippi Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 Act

Conexon has worked tirelessly with EPAs since the passage of the 2019 Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, supporting and positioning them to deliver FTTH to rural communities. With the recent Mississippi Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 Act and subsequent grants setting the stage for accelerated project funding and schedules, the company has assembled the breadth of resources, suppliers and partners to ensure EPAs successfully fast-start their projects and meet their grant commitments.

"These grant funds will make a tremendous impact on our ability to begin delivering high-speed internet service to rural parts of east Mississippi," said East Mississippi EPA CEO Randy Carroll. "Conexon's partnership has been invaluable as we have gone through the process of identifying the areas for the pilot, working to secure the funding and prepare to quickly launch the service."

"Living in 2020 during this pandemic has clearly demonstrated the need for high-speed internet," Coast Electric CEO Ron Barnes said. "This funding allows us to provide high-speed internet to our most unserved and under-served communities. Conexon has proven itself at every step to be a partner in whom we can trust and have faith to take care of our members, and we're confident in their ability to help us quickly start and successfully meet the needs of our members."

"The team at Conexon is made up of cooperative veterans which means they understand what we need to accomplish for our members. I'm confident in their ability to help us quickly start and successfully complete our project," David O'Bryan, Delta EPA general manager said.

Construction on the Conexon client projects leveraging the CARES Act funding has already begun. "We have been working over the past several months to pull together the partners, resources and infrastructure to ensure that we hit the ground running once funding was awarded for our Mississippi clients," Conexon Partner Randy Klindt said. "Everyone involved in these projects is after the same goal – closing the Digital Divide in Mississippi and bringing broadband parity to rural residents. Every member of our FTTH ecosystem is committed to doing their part to ensure a fast, efficient and successful deployment for our clients and their members."

"I believe that this generation of co-op leaders is meeting the challenge to build fiber networks and bring affordable, high-speed internet access to their members," Chambers said. "We're already at work on every project to meet the schedule set out by the CARES legislation. I'm proud to be associated with so many of these Mississippi projects. We are committed to finishing what we helped start so that every rural home and business has access to the world with world-class service."

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