By SEAN ROWLEY
With agreements in place and plans to open a facility in the Tahlequah Industrial Park, Rural Broadband Service Corporation [RBSC] has begun its project to provide gigabit broadband Internet service to commercial clients and public services in Cherokee County.
However, residential availability of gigabit broadband service seems a project for the further future. Internet access is provided to Cherokee County residents through an array of providers and methods.
AT&T offers DSL service, CoreComm and LocalNet offer dialup, and TSC Digital offers access by satellite. Local service is also available through Tahlequah Cable Television Inc.
Sprocket Wireless, which operates in Tahlequah, Muskogee, Checotah, Stigler and McAlester, offers wireless Internet access.
“It’s a system which operates off cell phone towers, so it doesn’t require a landline or cable,” said Zach Vercruyssen, Sprocket’s Tahlequah manager. “We can offer 3G service in the home and to Internet devices.”
Lake Region Electric Cooperative [LREC] has Exede Satellite plans through ViaSat, but also has a pilot fiber optic program.
“For the bandwidth that people are starting to demand, fiber optic is the only way to get there,” said Stanley Young, LREC director of marketing. “We have run fiber optic along [U.S.] Highway 62 from Park Hill to Four Mile Road north of Fort Gibson. We have also run it from From Hulbert to Bryant Road, north to Grandview. We have run about 200 miles of fiber optic cable.”
Vercruyssen said research is essential when choosing an Internet provider.
“You need to know what speeds are offered, what the speeds mean and know your usage limits,” he said. “You don’t want to end up with ginormous bills.
Find out what they charge if you go over on the plan. Find out whether the service can reach your home. That’s a big deal in a rural area. Also, know what you will use the Internet for - what that entails.”
Operating locally as RBSC Oklahoma LLC, the broadband provider entered into agreements with the city, the Tahlequah Public Works Authority and the Tahlequah Industrial Authority during 2013.
An RBSC news release states that the agreement with the City of Tahlequah allows the company to provide high speed broadband services to commercial customers including the fire and police departments, and educational and health institutions.
It further mentions that RBSC will support the Tahlequah Public Works Authority to provide in-home fiber services to TPWA customers.
In July 2013, the Tahlequah Industrial Authority approved a 25-year commercial license lease agreement with RBSC. A prefab building is onsite within the Tahlequah Industrial Park, but the company intends to open a 28,000-square-foot facility in March.
The TPWA gave approval in October 2013 for RBSC Oklahoma LLC to attach fiber optic service lines to the authority’s utility poles. Another broadband Internet service company, Eezinet Corporation, was also given permission.
In his addresses to meetings of the TIA, TPWA and Tahlequah City Council, Roy Choates, president and CEO of RBSC, has said the focus of the broadband network would be providing high-speed services commercially, and exploring the expansion of service to residents in the future, perhaps contracting with third parties.
The RBSC site states that construction of its Tahlequah network began on Jan. 1, and that Tahlequah was chosen as the “proof of concept” city for the first phase of its Thirty Smart Communities Objective for Rural America. The first phase calls for the provision of broadband service to 10 cities in Oklahoma by the beginning of 2016.