(August 24, 2020) — Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative is preparing to start Phase 3 of its project to make broadband internet an option for all its members. This phase has 29 sections (design areas) and includes the rural parts of Lewis and Perry counties. Construction is set to begin in December 2020 and will span approximately 14 months, with Meriwether Lewis Connect, LLC, in-home/business installations expected to start in April 2021.
Taking advantage of a time sensitive Tennessee Economic and Community Development broadband accessibility grant, Phase 3 construction will begin in southern Perry County. After the grant area, construction will suspend in Perry County while right of way is cleared in the remaining parts of the county. During this time, fiber crews will move to and complete all of Lewis County because its right of way is more clear and ready for fiber construction. Once done, fiber construction crews will return and finish Perry County.
“We announced the formation of MLConnect on this day two years ago and have made a lot of progress and learned from experience,” says MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan. “This approach makes the best impact on our overall MLConnect timeline so that we can serve MLEC members quickly and reliably. Fast, affordable, dependable broadband internet has always been important, but with COVID-19, the need has intensified for remote learning, telework, and telemedicine.”
The rural areas of Hickman County served by MLEC will comprise the fourth and final phase of MLEC’s project. Construction is expected to start in October 2021 and conclude by the end of 2022, with installations beginning as individual design areas (sections) are complete. MLConnect is live in all nine Phase I cities across MLEC’s five counties. Phase 2 construction (Houston and Humphreys counties) is expected to wrap in January 2021, and installations are already underway in 25 of the 63 design areas.
“Weather, COVID precautions and other variables can affect progress, but this is our plan today,” says Carnahan. “It would be great if MLConnect could deliver broadband to everyone at the same time, but our service territory is large and rural. It takes time to build a quality, 100-percent fiber broadband network, but we are committed and coming. When it arrives, the price will be affordable, the service excellent, and the speed and reliability unmatched.”
MLEC is working on an interactive map tool, which will be available online soon, to help members track fiber progress to their location. An estimated timeline for specific Phase 3 areas will be available once construction begins. To be contacted when MLConnect reaches your area, MLEC encourages members to register at www.mlconnect.com.