Just days before Christmas, Co-Mo Comm - the subsidiary of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative - lit up its broadband network for the first pilot-project subscribers.
Construction of the 100 miles of fiber took Georgia-based Atlantic Engineering Group two months to complete.
The primary purpose of the fiber network is to increase the efficiency in which electricity can be delivered.
Thanks to fiber's enormous capacity, Co-Mo is able to use excess bandwidth to offer Co-Mo Connect, a high-speed broadband network, and unlimited local and long-distance telephone service to the members in two pilot project areas.
Those areas - one just south of Syracuse and the other in the Laurie/Sunrise Beach area - were chosen because of their proximity to Co-Mo's two offices and their demographic makeup that will allow the cooperative to glean important data to decide if the network should be expanded to all Co-Mo members.
Co-Mo began exploring building a fiberto-the-home network in 2009 after numerous requests from its members.
The cooperative attempted to secure funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but its grant application was not approved.
During the grant process, the cooperative received hundreds of letters from its members talking about the need for better Internet communication for things such as remote education and at-home business opportunities.
In the wake of that grant process, the cooperative's board of directors approved a plan to explore building the network without government assistance.
Board members authorized the cooperative to proceed with a presales model that sought to test the interest for the service in the pilot project areas. Only if a minimum threshold of subscribers joined would the network be built.
With the help of members who went door-to-door to talk to their neighbors and the assistance of two local banks that offered to pay all or a portion of the installation fee for subscribers, that threshold was easily surpassed.
Now the pilot project aims to test the belief that the network can be built to all Co-Mo members without negatively effecting electricity rates.
Co-Mo had hoped to have all subscribers activated by the end of 2011, but some delays in the engineering process pushed the project back slightly,officials said.
By the end of 2011, Co-Mo expected to have 20 subscribers online testing the service and more subscribers will be activated each day starting Jan. 2.
While the network is being perfected, the service will be free to the early pilot-project subscribers.
The base package for Co-Mo Connect is $39.95 a month for 5 megabits per second of service.
The next steps up are $49.95 and $59.95 a month for 20 and 35 mbps, respectively.
Businesses are able to sign up for special Business Edition services that provide them faster upload speeds to transmit large files faster.
Unlimited local and long distance telephone can be added to any service for just $25 a month.
Though television service isn't included in the pilot project, it would be if the network is extended to the entire service area.