Annual Meeting

The Gig is Here!

More than 500 members of the New Hope Telephone Cooperative recently gathered for the annual update about a company that first offered widespread telephone access more than 60 years ago.

The cooperative provided the rural community a connection to the world, which required an investment other companies weren’t willing to make.

And this year, General Manager Jim Cook told the gathered membership about the completion of NHTC’s latest project, which continues a commitment to keep the growing community at the forefront of communications.

The completion of a fiber-optic network allowing internet speeds rivaling those of major cities has earned the cooperative certification as a Gig-Capable Provider, making 2017 a significant milestone in its history.

The meeting came just days after the cooperative was named a certified Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, which represents nearly 900 telecommunications companies in rural America. Only about 12 percent of eligible companies attain the certification, which requires confirmation that gigabit technology is available in at least 95 percent of a cooperative’s service territory.

During the meeting, Cook announced that everyone should be connected to the fiber network by late summer.

“We want to sincerely thank everyone for the support and patience throughout this project,” Cook says. “NHTC members can proudly proclaim they have access to broadband internet speeds over 100 times faster than those currently available in most U.S. households and cities.”

Cook says the completion of a fiber network gives the cooperative the ability to offer internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps, or 1,000 Mbps.

About 78 percent of residential customers subscribe to the minimum speed. In the early days of DSL, this meant a maximum download speed of up to 3 Mbps. As technology improved, download speeds also improved.

“Now that the fiber network is complete, we have recently announced that our most popular broadband speed tier has been increased to up to 25 Mbps for both download and upload,” Cook says. “And the best part of these service improvements is that they have come without any increase in cost to the customer.”

The project to construct the fiber-to-the-home network to NHTC’s 4,900 customers in Madison and Marshall counties began in 2009, and the cooperative has invested $30 million.

Cook says the employees at NHTC designed, planned, promoted and built the network. “I’d like to thank our board of directors for leading our cooperative through this bold decision to build a world-class network in North Alabama,” he says. “I think it’s important to realize what exactly has taken place here. We have not simply upgraded existing technology so that our network could meet today’s demands. It’s a brand-new fiber-optic network that replaces the copper network that has served our area for decades and that will serve our communities well into the future.”

Cook says only 5 percent of Alabamians have access to fiber-optic service and only about 3 percent have access to the kind of gigabit speeds the cooperative can now provide.

“I bring up these numbers not to boast or disparage other providers but to underscore the truly exceptional opportunities New Hope Telephone Cooperative has created for those we serve,” he says. “We all know that it’s not the infrastructure in the ground or on the poles that truly matters – it’s how that technology benefits those we serve.”

New Hope Mayor Butch Taylor says the presence of a gigabit-capable service is important for economic growth, providing a lure for both businesses and individuals considering relocation. “That’s a big advantage for us,” he says. “Schools, businesses and lots of families need high-speed internet. It’s essential now in our operations here at City Hall.”

A fast, reliable fiber connection means working parents can attend online courses to complete their education or learn new job skills.

“It goes without saying that in today’s global economy, we have a need now more than ever, to be connected locally, regionally and even globally. NHTC is forward thinking in their approach to offer gig service to its members,” says Madison County Commissioner Craig Hill, whose district covers New Hope and Owens Cross Roads. “Their foresight will open doors in telemedicine, economic development, greater educational attainment and an even better quality of life.”

Marshall County Commissioner R.E. Martin, whose district covers Grant, says the students at DAR School will benefit from having gigabit-capable service and that the service will provide many opportunities for students. “I think it’s a good thing,” he says. “It’s going to be important for the schools.”

Enjoying a solid foundation

In 2016, New Hope Telephone Cooperative enjoyed solid financial performance, with assets totaling $38 million.

General Manager Jim Cook updated members during the annual meeting on May 16 at New Hope Middle School.

Year-over-year operating revenues were down slightly, dropping to $12.2 million from $12.4 million, and operational expenses increased by 1.3 percent. Cook attributed the increase to the rising cost of video content  and increases in employee benefits, primarily health care.

NHTC posted a net income of $1.77 million for 2016.

Election Results

Place 2

Jim Duncan – 267 votes

David Whitaker – 149 votes

Tommy Bush – 120 votes

Place 3

Jeff Cooper – 322 votes

Marty Williams – 145 votes

Incumbent Jim Duncan was re-elected to Place 2 and incumbent Jeff Cooper was re-elected to Place 3.