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ecoLINK's Future: Bridging the Digital Divide

12:44PM March 20, 2024

The successful 2023 completion of ecoLINK’s East Central Electric membership project marks a significant stride in a commitment to providing cutting-edge, affordable fiber broadband services.  It’s a milestone in ECE’s journey toward bridging the digital divide.  Completing the member project has fueled their desire to eagerly step into the next phase of their journey.

“It (project completion) has reinforced our dedication to delivering reliable, affordable, high-speed fiber broadband services, transforming the digital landscape within the East Central Electric Cooperative service area,” Director of Broadband Operations Jeremy Hendrickson said.

One of the key pillars of ecoLINK’s future is a steadfast commitment to bringing high-speed internet to underserved communities.  These areas, often overlooked by traditional service providers, represent a digital gap that ecoLINK is determined to bridge. 

“We recognize that access to reliable broadband is not a luxury,” Hendrickson said. “But a fundamental necessity in the modern world.”

With the member project triumphantly concluded, ecoLINK eagerly ventures into the next phase of its journey – the Off-System Build. This initiative seeks to expand their fiber broadband network, ensuring connectivity in communities that were previously underserved.

ecoLINK has identified the communities in their service area that are underserved and have expressed a desire for high-quality broadband. 

Hendrickson said ecoLINK plans to strategically expand their network into these areas, ensuring that residents and businesses can benefit from fast, reliable, and affordable internet connections.  This expansion is integral to ecoLINK’s mission.

ecoLINK is currently immersed in the planning and design phase of the Off-System Build. They are tactically planning their expansion into the aforementioned areas. This crucial stage involves meticulous research, innovative planning, and strategic design.  Additionally, ecoLINK has been awarded grant monies from CAF (Connect America Fund), RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) and most recently ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) to extend its services beyond its electric service territory boundaries.

The communities of Henryetta, Haskell, Morris, Dewar, Taft, Onapa, Slick, Schulter, and Boynton and the rural areas around Eufaula, Okemah, and Bristow are the newest ARPA additions.

Recognizing the diversity of communities within underserved areas, ecoLINK is committed to providing customized solutions that meet the unique needs of each locality.  This involves partnering with local government and organizations using a collaborative approach to understanding the specific requirements of these communities.

ecoLINK’s vision extends beyond merely providing internet access; it includes empowering communities through connectivity and fostering a digitally inclusive society where everyone can thrive.  ecoLINK plans to collaborate with local leaders and organizations to implement digital literacy programs, skill development initiatives, and educational resources.

By addressing the needs of underserved areas, ecoLINK is not just expanding its network but fulfilling a crucial role. 

“We envision a positive change for communities in our service area and are dedicated to bridging the digital divide,” Hendrickson concluded. 

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