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N.H. Electric Co-op Expands Its Broadband Services To Two Rural Towns

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The New Hampshire Electric Co-op plans on bringing fiber internet to Acworth and Sandwich by early next year. The Co-op wants to provide access to high-speed internet service for the 85,000 homes and businesses it serves across the state.

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In Sandwich, just 13% of the town’s residents have access to minimum broadband speeds, according to the town’s broadband advisory committee. The federal government defines that speed as 25 megabits per second download speed, and 3 megabits per second upload speed.

Julie Dolan, who chairs Sandwich’s broadband advisory committee, says the pandemic underscored the need for fast internet. Students and teachers would drive to library parking lots to teach or do homework. In the past, some moved out of Sandwich because of the slow internet.

The co-op’s subsidiary, NH Broadband, will offer two different speeds to residents and businesses: 100 mbps and 1,000 mbps.

“We are jumping into the 21st century finally,” Dolan says. “It’s going to mean everything for our citizens.”

Since the expansion was announced on Thursday, 64 people from Acworth and Sandwich have signed up for the service. Dolan is one of them. She plans on subscribing to the 100 mbps plan.

“[That] is going to be so blazingly fast to me, I won't know what to do with it,” she says. “I might even try to figure out what Netflix is all about.”

Maybe, she says, she’ll check out The Crown.

Across the U.S., electric cooperatives have been adding broadband access to their charters, according to Jeff Morrill, who chairs the NHEC’s board of directors.

Last year, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative members made a big push for that to happen. In October, members voted by a wide margin to add rural broadband service to the utility’s mission.

“We put our first pole in the ground in the 1930s. You needed electricity to live,” Morrill says. “You really need high-speed internet to function in today’s world.”

Richard Knox chairs the New Hampshire Broadband Advocates, a grassroots group pushing for better internet across the state. He says he hopes this is a new trend for the state’s rural communities. He says a new non-profit provider with competitive pricing will be a good thing for New Hampshire.

“It gives people some choices,” he says.

The non-profit has already built out fiber networks to 1,000 Co-op members in Lempster, Clarksville, Colebrook and Stewartstown

Work on the broadband expansions in Sandwich and Acworth is expected to start this week.

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