U.S. service provider C Spire today announced a partnership with electric utility Entergy Mississippi which aims to bring more than 300 miles of fiber to remote areas of Mississippi. C Spire will build and own the network, with Entergy contributing construction costs, according to C Spire Vice President of Government Relations Ben Moncrief in an interview with Telecompetitor.
Entergy will lease capacity on the network from C Spire to support its smart grid initiatives, he said. C Spire eventually expects to extend the middle-mile network to end user locations to support retail services, he added, although he emphasized that any such plans are not part of today’s news.
Details about the C Spire – Entergy partnership can be found in this press release. Clearly there were a lot of synergies for these companies to work together.
“This opens the door to offering service to residences and industrial parks,” Moncrief said. “But today is just about getting the (fiber optic) backbone in place.”
When Entergy Mississippi sought the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s approval to build a network to support its smart grid plans, one of the commissioners asked whether that network could also be “at least a foundation for broadband services,” Moncrief explained.
That idea led Entergy to a meeting with C Spire at which representatives of both companies had an “aha moment,” Moncrief recalled.
C Spire initially was a wireless carrier, as well as a provider of wireline business services, but in recent years has been quite aggressive in deploying fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and other broadband network infrastructure in numerous rural markets in Mississippi. Meanwhile, Moncrief said, “Here’s an electric utility that for security reasons is keeping infrastructure away from population centers.”
The network will be installed with a minimum of 144-count fiber, “in some places more,” Moncrief noted. Each company will have its own fiber. The areas that the network will run through are “very rural” and might have been too costly for C Spire to build out to without the Entergy investment, Moncrief added.
C Spire also will gain connectivity from the rural areas to population centers, Moncrief said.
The construction project will involve placing fiber optic cable along five separate routes as follows:
- Delta: a 92-mile route through Sunflower, Humphreys, Madison and Hinds counties and near the cities of Indianola, Inverness, Isola, Belzoni, Silver City, Yazoo City, Bentonia, Flora and Jackson.
- North: a 51-mile stretch in Attala, Leake and Madison counties, including near the towns of McAdams, Kosciusko and Canton.
- Central: a 33-mile route through Madison, Rankin and Scott counties and near the towns of Canton, Sand Hill and Morton.
- South: a 77-mile route passing through Simpson, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Walthall counties and near the towns of Magee, Prentiss, Silver Creek, Monticello and Tylertown.
- Southwest: a 49-mile stretch in Franklin and Adams counties that’s near the communities of Bude, Meadville, Roxie, Natchez and Eddiceton.
“We’re excited about partnering with C Spire to modernize our electrical grid and expand rural broadband access in some hard-to-reach areas across the state,” said Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi. “We have about 30,000 customers within five miles of the proposed routes who could potentially have access to broadband service when the project is complete. In addition, all of our customers will benefit from the enhancements to our communication systems that connect our facilities, substations, offices and radio sites.” The company provides electric service to an estimated 445,000 customers in 45 counties across the state.
“A robust broadband infrastructure is critical to the success of our efforts to move Mississippi forward by growing the economy, fostering innovation, creating job opportunities and improving the quality of life for all our residents,” said Hu Meena, CEO of C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.