CEO’s Message: Bridging the Divide

September 2022

Since the very beginning, this cooperative has been about bridging a divide. Back in 1937, when Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) was first incorporated, that divide was one of access to electricity.

While major cities were switching on the bright lights that would become synonymous with them, rural areas were being left behind. The big power companies looked at areas where neighbors might be miles apart and decided there was no profit in running miles of line to serve a handful of people.

So with a little help from the Rural Electrification Act, those people took matters into their own hands. SVEC’s founders went door-to-door signing their neighbors up for the cooperative and built an electric system that was for them and owned by them.

Decades later, I think the cooperative has proved to be successful at providing for a vital need of our community. That’s probably why local leaders came to us when they wanted to close another growing gap in our community — like many other parts of rural America, our area finds itself on the wrong side of a “digital divide,” being underserved or unserved by internet providers.

To be honest, when those conversations first started I was all for any solution that didn’t involve SVEC. After all, we’re an electric cooperative. Bringing reliable and affordable power to our consumer-members keeps us plenty busy.

But, as our board of trustees urged us to look into our options for providing high-speed internet service and we found sustainable models for doing so, I couldn’t help but see the parallels with our original mission of 85 years ago. If electricity transformed our community all those decades ago, high-speed internet could be just as important today. But just like in 1937, we would need to make it happen ourselves.

That’s why, in July, I was excited to officially announce our plans for Rapid Fiber Internet, a 100% fiber-to-the-home internet service powered by SVEC. This project will be a longterm investment, starting with a fiber optic loop that will help us improve the electric service you rely on. From that, we will build out a fiber network to our members.

You can learn more about what fiber can do for our community, how it works and what to expect from this project moving forward in this newsletter. If you still have questions, I encourage you to look through the FAQ and other information available on our Rapid Fiber Internet page.

This is an exciting time for our cooperative. It isn’t every day that we get to put the principles that we were founded on into practice in a whole new way. I look forward to bringing you more updates as the project goes forward. Until then, we will continue to bring you the reliable and affordable electric service you expect from your cooperative.

SVEC members learning about Rapid Fiber