Construction of the Beacon Broadband fiber optic network is picking up speed. It was exciting to recently celebrate the connection of our 500th subscriber. In June, we expect to reach 1,000 subscribers. By the end of summer, construction will move north beyond Brookings and Harbor.
Response from subscribers is overwhelmingly positive. Beacon Broadband represents a serious commitment by Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, and we respect the concerns voiced by some members. However, it seems some concerns expressed in recent letters to the editor stem from incorrect information. I hope to address some misunderstandings with correct information.
The consultants who prepared the broadband project feasibility study in 2019 projected a two-year buildout, which we knew to be unrealistic in our rugged coastal terrain. Therefore, based on CCEC’s knowledge and experience, construction of the fiber network was planned to take three to five years. Full-scale construction started in October 2021.
The feasibility study estimated construction costs of $45 million. Again, based on CCEC’s local construction experience, we revised the estimate construction costs to $60 million. As part of the CCEC board resolution authorizing construction of the fiber network, the board authorized staff to seek borrowing up to $60 million to finance construction. CoBank has partnered with BBI to provide lending for construction up to the board-authorized $60 million. To date, BBI has borrowed $20 million from CoBank at a 5.6% annual interest rate on a 30-year term.
BBI seeks every available grant funding opportunity to offset the need for borrowing.
We are awaiting the results of two grant applications totaling about $9 million. Much more grant funding available through federal and state broadband programs will be open for application soon.
When construction is complete, the network will pass approximately 20,000 addresses.
The BBI fiber network will be available to every CCEC member and to some nearby areas, including Langlois, the outskirts of Bandon and Powers. Of the addresses passed, we project about 8,000 will subscribe to BBI services. BBI is meeting subscription targets based on the addresses passed to date and projected new subscribers in those areas.
Despite the headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain shortages, inflation and a difficult labor market, the BBI team is finding innovative solutions to keep the project on track. Our subscribers are thrilled to finally have access to a broadband experience that enables education, business and health care opportunities previously out of reach. We are proud to be a part of America’s rural cooperative network enhancing lives right here on Oregon’s south coast!