By BRIAN GRAVES
DECATUR — Volunteer Energy Cooperative President Rody Blevins said Saturday all of the homes that will be part of the coop's broadband pilot program will be inside Bradley County.Blevins spoke to …
DECATUR — Volunteer Energy Cooperative President Rody Blevins said Saturday all of the homes that will be part of the coop's broadband pilot program will be inside Bradley County.
Blevins spoke to the Cleveland Daily Banner prior to the coop's annual meeting at Meigs County Middle School.
He said the centerpoint of the service will come from a substation located near the intersection of Highway 60 and Rabbit Valley Road.
"The reason we picked that location is there are some areas there that have no service," Blevins said. "Some of those on the county roads there have nothing."
He also said the service would be be made available to the Camelot subdivision "where they do have some options."
"We are doing that to discover how many would choose our services who have no options as well as those who do have a source for broadband service already available," Blevins said. "That helps us looking at the bigger financial model."
He said if everything goes well, VEC hopes to start hooking up residential services around Dec. 1. The coop will be providing packages which include television, telephone and internet.
"We are lined up and have all of the material ordered," Blevins said. "Everything is contingent on the equipment arriving when we have been told to expect it."
"If we have real low response, that's going to hurt us," he added. "We are not for- profit, so this thing has to pay for itself overtime. If I show my board it will never pay for itself, we can't do it. But, I don't think that's going to be the case."
He said VEC is already working on the application for the grants which are now available through the state that were created by a bill passed last year.
The bill was spearheaded by the legislators who represent Bradley County — state Reps. Kevin Brooks and Dan Howell along with state Sens. Mike Bell and Todd Gardenhire.
"We have already talked to the state's economic development commissioner a few times," Blevins said. "That's not a lot of money, but it will definitely help us."
He said the projected cost to serve "roughly three-fourths of Bradley County" would be $40 million.
"If we could get 50 percent to take the service, we would be in pretty good shape," Blevins said. "We urge everyone to take advantage of this opportunity so we can finally provide these long-desired services to those areas that have not been able to access them."
He said the basic internet package would have a speed of 100 megabites, with faster speeds available for those who want to pay extra for the enhanced service.
"We are talking about having a low-cost package with a 25 megabites speed for those who might not have use for some of the broadband uses that might require or work better with the higher speeds," Blevins said.
"There are so many reasons people need this access today," he said. "There is often the assumption students have broadband access at home and we are entering a new era when physical textbooks are almost gone. If they have to ride to McDonald's every night to access the internet, that's not a good educational situation."
Blevins also noted the economic impact broadband access can have on an area.
"Most Realtors now ask, especially in the rural areas, if broadband is available," he said. "Ten years ago, you never asked that question."
Blevins said the hopes were to have "pretty good information" as to the success of the pilot program after six months.
"Then, that will help us finalized the financial picture," he said. "We have already had someone working on this for almost a year. These are huge numbers for us."
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