Eight years after helping build the gold standard of cooperative-provided rural broadband, Randy Klindt sees no limits on co-ops’ ability to bring fiber to their members.
“The co-op is in the best position,” he says.
As general manager of OzarksGo LLC, the telecom arm of Ozarks Electric Cooperative in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Klindt’s days are filled with broadband concerns. But his passion for the technology extends beyond 9-to-5. He’s also a partner in Fayetteville-based Conexon, a consulting and analytics firm that exclusively helps electric cooperatives launch fiber-to-the-home projects.
“If electric co-ops do not serve their own members with reliable, robust broadband, it’s not going to happen,” Klindt says. “Cable companies are not going to extend out to rural areas—it’s not their business model. The large telecom companies won’t do it without subsidies. And then they’d only provide 10 megabits per second, which is not the definition of broadband.”
Klindt is former CEO of Co-Mo Connect, the broadband subsidiary of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Missouri. While there, he oversaw a groundbreaking fiber build-out that brought gigabit access to all the co-op’s members and has essentially become a template for co-op-build broadband.
Klindt offers his co-op clients key insights for a self-sustaining broadband rollout: maximize density, particularly at the beginning of a project; build out one feeder and one substation at a time; sell each household prior to connection.
“Pennies matter when you’re building thousands of miles of fiber,” he says.
He tells co-ops that multi-year commitments like fiber to the home require full buy-in from both board and staff. And co-ops should carefully examine state laws and regulations that could impact their project.
In the end, the co-op relationship with their members will be their “biggest asset” he says. “Membership loyalty and customer satisfaction, those carry through on broadband side.”