Tahlequah Daily Press

February 6, 2014

RBSC president discusses broadband service

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Roy Choates, president and CEO of Rural Broadband Service Corporation [RBSC],  told members of the Tahlequah Kiwanis Club Wednesday that installation of a new broadband internet network is underway.

“We are talking about rapid deployment,” Choates said. “We reached our agreement [with the Tahlequah Public Works Authority] in October, submitted our drawings in November, we opened our engineering and construction office in December. We started construction the first week of January and the northern part of the network will be completed by Feb. 14.”

Choates added that electronics will be in place by Feb. 16 and service provided to initial customers in March.

As he has during previous meetings and presentations in Tahlequah, Choates explained the service will be provided to commercial customers and municipal entities, and that residential service is a project for the future.

“In Phase I, we will take about 15 business customers and make sure that it works - that it does everything we said it would,” he said. “We clean up our processors, make sure everyone is happy…. We do not do residential. We are partnering with the TPWA to eventually do the residential piece.”

Operating locally as RBSC Oklahoma LLC, the broadband provider entered into agreements with the city, the TPWA and the Tahlequah Industrial Authority during 2013. Eezinet Corp., another broadband provider, was also given permission.

Choates recalled his discussions with Mayor Jason Nichols, who insisted that RBSC forfeit any materials installed on utility poles if the system failed.

“That was basically how we wanted it to work,” Nichols said. “In exchange for them attaching to our poles, we wanted the network to become ours if there was a problem.”

However, local businesses and the city are enthusiastic about the start of service.

“I can’t wait for them to get it lit and see how it all works,” Nichols said.

David Moore, director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, sees it as a positive move for Tahlequah.

“I’m glad to see both providers coming here. Not only will there be broadband access, but plenty of options within that access,” Moore said.

In July 2013, the TIA approved a 25-year commercial license lease agreement with RBSC. Per the agreement, Choates said RBSC wants to hire 25 local employees, which would allow the company to recover all lease payments to the TIA.

“We are working with [Indian Capital Technology Center] through a co-op program, which I am very familiar with,” he said. “I came through the co-op program at Georgia State University. We will work to give people training and learn the right skill set to work on this network, not only to install the service for customers, but also to maintain it.”

The RBSC website states 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.

“I believe someone has to take the lead on providing gigabit networks to rural America,” Choates said. “No one is bringing it to cities as small as Tahlequah. There is no financial model. Our idea was to find an area that has the potential, build a fiber network, offer gigabit service and do what nobody else is willing to do - to prove that it can be done and be profitable in a city of this size.”

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com