DZS, a global enabler in broadband connectivity platforms and communications software solutions, has announced the continued successful expansion of a major rural broadband transformation project being deployed by electric cooperative 4-County Electric Power Association (4-County) in East Central Mississippi in conjunction with DZS strategic partner Irby Utilities (Irby), a subsidiary of Sonepar USA who provides full scope fiber network solutions through its Technology and Communications business group.
Now in its second year of buildout, 4-County has moved beyond its successful pilot of DZS technology and Irby Utilities broadband network planning and deployment expertise to the aggressive expansion of its FASTnet Fiber program to its membership across nine counties. This program will be transformational to the region when it comes to fruition over the next few years, as 4-County lays over 3,700 miles of fiber to bring world-class gigabit+ services capabilities to over 40,000 homes and businesses.
Made possible by over $35 million in Rural Digital Opportunity Funds (RDOF) and millions more in CARES funding and committed investment by 4-County, the FASTnet Fiber program will also enable the cooperative to connect its critical electric infrastructure to a smart grid communications network.
“This groundbreaking FASTnet Fiber project is more than just bridging the digital divide – It is obliterating it by bringing multi-gigabit capable hyper-broadband services via GPON and XGS-PON access technologies to areas with extremely limited broadband access,” said Brian Clark, CEO and general manager, 4-County Electrical Power Association. “As this network comes to fruition, it will catapult 4-County’s membership straight to the forefront of the digital age and provide transformational opportunity to our region. The rapid and successful pilot build out and our whole FASTnet Fiber project would not have been possible without Irby’s expertise. We are thrilled with the progress that we’ve made already and believe in the transformational power that unleashing hyper-fast broadband will have in our member communities in East Central Mississippi.”
With approximately 40,000 members and 50,000 meters along 5,500 miles of power lines, 4-County is already one of Mississippi’s largest electrical cooperatives, serving a variety of residential, commercial and government customers, including a U.S. Air Force base, a large truck engine plant, a drone manufacturing facility and a steel mill that is the largest TVA power consumer in the Southeast. All of these members are potential beneficiaries of the new FASTnet Fiber broadband network, enabling symmetrical speed residential packages of 200/500/1000 Mbps today and having the potential to deliver 10 Gbps services on demand tomorrow – all over the same fiber infrastructure and DZS Velocity and Helix systems. Irby Utilities is now helping 4-County plan for and rapidly deploying a range of DZS technologies that include:
DZS Velocity Broadband Access solutions: The DZS Velocity V14 multi-terabit FTTx OLTs with GPON, XGS-PON, and Combo line cards form the foundation of FASTnet’s multi-gigabit capable services deployment. DZS V14 OLTs offer an ultra-high capacity, fiber-optimized aggregation platform suitable for deployment in even the most demanding physical environments.
DZS Helix Edge Access solutions: DZS zNID ONTs provide wired connectivity in the home, while DZS Mesh-2100 dual band AC2100 wave 2 Wi-Fi repeaters are enabling a carrier-class Wi-Fi network for home and small office use.
“4-County and Irby Utilities have done an incredible job bringing cutting-edge technology and services to one of the most underserved markets in the U.S. in a very short period of time, and DZS is proud to be a critical partner in the efforts of electric cooperatives to rapidly transform these markets into hyper-connected showcases,” said Jay Hilbert, chief revenue officer, DZS.
“This project is already making a huge difference in the quality of life for the families and communities of East Mississippi and has laid a strong foundation for ongoing economic development in the area. We believe 4-County is a powerful example to other electric cooperatives of how they too can find success in deploying gigabit+ broadband to their members by leveraging available government stimulus funds and grants as well as unparalleled expertise of DZS and Irby Utilities.”
The partnership with DZS, Irby Utilities and 4-County is one of many similar efforts taking place now with rural electric co-operatives across the US. The RDOF program has already allocated over $1 billion to electric co-operative projects, with DZS and Irby Utilities involved with over $100 million in awarded and approved funding.
Billions more are still available. In Mississippi alone, the state has allocated over $1 billion to electric cooperative buildouts, leveraging funds from multiple federal, state, and regional sources. The availability of diverse funding is a testament to 4-County, Irby Utilities and DZS’ ability to work together seamlessly to deliver life-changing broadband services to some of the most underserved communities in the US on time and on budget.