Cullman Electric Cooperative serves 45,000 member accounts distributed over approximately 1,000 square miles of Northern Alabama, primarily in Cullman and Winston counties. The co-op was founded by local farmers to ensure rural residents were afford the same services and opportunities as those living in urban areas. Its mission today has stayed true to its founding principles to support and empower member’s communities – ensuring these rural communities have access to reliable and affordable energy products and services.

Historically, high-quality broadband has been limited in rural areas because it is difficult for incumbent providers to build a business case for deployment where populations are sparse. In fact, about 10 percent of U.S. households – mostly in rural communities – do not have broadband service, defined as 25 Mb/s or greater, yet people living in these rural communities are working from home, shopping, and consuming entertainment.

Cullman Electric recognized that the lack of broadband connectivity was having a negative impact on the residents in its service area, preventing them from enjoying the many benefits of modern technology. To help mitigate these challenges, Cullman Electric launched Sprout Fiber Internet, a Gigabit broadband service that brings Fiber to the Home to its rural members. The co-op built a 100G fiber middle mile backbone between their electric substations to aggregate their electrical Operational Technology and their new broadband traffic using Ciena’s 5171 Platform.

Ciena’s 5171 Platform can scale to enable Cullman Electric to add broadband customers and increase bandwidth utilization per household. It can also segregate the co-op’s mission critical OT traffic, ensuring OT traffic gets the highest priority to keep the lights on in Cullman and Winston counties.

You can listen to a podcast with Cullman Electric here or read the full case study here.