In April, 2016, the Board of Directors of Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) elected to further expand the Co-op’s services by constructing a fiber optic network. The intent was to transform the electric system into a fully functioning smart grid and provide a new membership benefit with MVlink fiber internet service.
Today, 35 of the Cooperative’s 37 substations and thousands of electric line devices are connected through a 2,100 mile (and growing) fiber network. According to CEO Jeremy Richert, “we know our members value reliable service and the fiber network helps us operate our system more efficiently. With real-time communications between the electric distribution system and the office we can remotely control equipment and take steps to reduce both the number of power outages and the length of them when they occur.”
In addition to greater electric service reliability, MVEC’s 14,000 members now have the option for unprecedented broadband service with a direct fiber to the home connection. To date, over 5,000 members are signed up to take internet service and many also enjoy internet-based telephone (VoIP) service. With a minimum offer of 85 Mbps upload and 85 Mbps download, and the option for up to 1 gigabits per second symmetrical service, MVlink members have bridged the rural/urban divide. A Monticello-area member commented that she now has internet speeds better than her daughter can get in St. Louis.
The economic benefit of this business expansion is vast. Area businesses report a positive impact on their operations as a direct result of better internet access; and families have been able to work and learn from home with greater connectivity among multiple devices. MVEC added ten new employees and numerous contracting firms placed upwards of 100 people living and working within the Cooperative’s service area over the past five years. While these contractors greatly exceeded industry standards for the volume of construction, MVEC appreciated the patience of their members as the network was built and individual homes and businesses were connected, all while dealing with Iowa weather impacts.
Going forward, MVEC expects to construct an additional 60 miles in 2021, while continuing to ensure all members are aware of this opportunity. There are non-MVEC members within the construction paths that may also be able to tap into MVlink services. People interested in service should add their name in the MVlink Sign-Up section of the Co-op’s website at www.mvec.coop. Signing up does not commit a person to take service but does allow MVEC to stay connected to those who are interested.
An excerpt from “The Next Greatest Thing; 50 Years of Rural Electrification in America” certainly applies today to this broadband effort: “To the founders and pioneers of rural electrification, who with grit, sweat and vision – transformed rural America from the depths of despair and darkness to the splendor of hope and light, and who serve as our reminder that no job is too tough if the cause is just and the people are determined.”
Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative is a member-owned utility that distributes electricity to over 17,000 homes, farms and businesses in Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties and portions of five surrounding counties and also provides members with a high-speed fiber internet service, MVlink.