PLYMOUTH, NH (March 1, 2022) – New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s (NHEC) Board of Directors has voted to move forward with a major expansion of the Co-op’s broadband efforts. The Board authorized NH Broadband, the Co-op’s internet subsidiary, to proceed with construction of fiber-optic networks that will provide high-speed internet service to nearly 17,000 homes and businesses in 32 towns across Grafton County, one of the most underserved areas of the state. This project does not require bonding or other financial commitment by the towns.
Grafton County has a high concentration of areas that do not have access to broadband internet. Last year, NHEC secured funding to help provide these unserved areas with fiber-optic high-speed internet service through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. NHEC’s expansion in Grafton County will focus on reaching these unserved members.
NHEC is moving forward with the planning and development of its Grafton County expansion to meet its members’ critical need for high-speed internet as quickly as possible. While work gets underway, NHEC will be pursuing grant opportunities that the State of New Hampshire will make available in the near future from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The Grafton County project will help bridge the digital divide for residents in some of the most underserved areas of the state, with the goal of completing construction in 18 months.
“This expansion is a milestone for rural broadband access in New Hampshire,” said NHEC Board Chair Jeffrey Morrill. “Just two years ago we were in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and thousands of our members were quite literally cut off from a world that went virtual nearly overnight. It speaks to the value of member-owned cooperatives like NHEC that can respond quickly and effectively to the needs of its members. I’m proud of the work NHEC and the Board have done to lead the effort for universal broadband access in New Hampshire.”
“High-speed internet has been a long time coming to rural New Hampshire,” said NH Broadband Chair and NHEC Board member Leo Dwyer. “This expansion of NH Broadband’s network will connect thousands of NHEC members to an essential service in a part of the state that really needs it. It’s what we and our members envisioned when they asked us to provide broadband internet service in 2020. In many ways, it mirrors the Co-op’s drive to bring light and power to the same areas more than 80 years ago.”
NH Broadband’s fiber-optic networks are capable of providing upload and download speeds in excess of 1 Gigabit per second to meet NHEC’s members’ needs today and into the future. The service will be offered to NHEC members in the following towns:
Ashland, Bath, Benton, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton, Canaan, Dorchester, Easton, Ellsworth, Grafton, Groton, Hanover, Haverhill, Hebron, Holderness, Landaff, Lisbon, Littleton, Lyman, Monroe, New Hampton (Belknap County), Orange, Orford, Piermont, Plymouth, Rumney, Sugar Hill, Thornton, Warren, Wentworth, Woodstock.
One of the NHEC members looking forward to receiving service said NH Broadband’s expansion is good news for rural residents across the state.
“I respect and appreciate the responsiveness of the Co-op to this member initiative,” said Richard Knox of New Hampshire Broadband Advocates, a grassroots group that has advocated for expanded broadband access in the state. “It signifies that NHEC means business when it says it wants to provide this essential service to rural towns overlooked by other internet providers.”
In 2020, with support from the Connecting New Hampshire – Emergency Broadband Expansion Program, NHEC constructed fiber optic networks that provided over 1,000 of its members high-speed internet access in Lempster, Colebrook, Stewartstown, and Clarksville. In 2021, NHEC began the construction of fiber-optic networks in Acworth and Sandwich, which will make broadband available to another 1,800 homes and businesses. The Sandwich and Acworth projects are supported by a grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), and federal funding that Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congressman Chris Pappas are working to secure. NHEC also anticipates applying for funds from ARPA.
In this early stage of planning, service availability dates by town are not yet available for Grafton County towns included in the network expansion. However, NH Broadband will be posting construction updates and other news on its website: www.NHBroadband.com and on its Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/NHBroadband.