DZS/Irby partnership propels Connect2First and FASTnet to rapidly close the digital divide in their regions with networks capable of world-class multi-gigabit services
DALLAS, Texas, USA, June 5, 2023 – DZS (Nasdaq: DZSI), a global leader of access, optical and cloud-controlled software defined solutions, and its strategic partner Irby Utilities (Irby) today announced deployment milestones reached by two of their rural electric cooperative broadband customers. Connect2First, a subsidiary of First Electric Cooperative in central and southeastern Arkansas, and FASTnet, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) launched by 4-County Electric Power Association (4CEPA) in central Mississippi. Each have deployed hyper-fast broadband to over 12,000 subscribers to date, more than doubling their respective homes passed over the last year.
Both service providers are leveraging Irby’s broadband network planning and deployment expertise along with multi-gigabit capable DZS technology solutions and a total of more than $53 million in Rural Digital Opportunity Funds (RDOF) plus other government funding programs like the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to ultimately bring services to more than 140,000 homes, businesses and anchor institutions between their two service areas. Each project currently stands well ahead of schedule.
“The DZS/Irby combination of industry-leading technology and expertise—plus strong local support and manufacturing logistics—has been a hands-down winner for Connect2First,” said Randy Everett, General Manager, Connect2First. “Not only are we providing hyper-fast internet and phone service to improve the quality of life and economic prospects for the highest-need homes and businesses in our service area, but we’ve also already deployed more than 60% of our total buildout miles and added more than 8,500 subscribers in the past twelve months.”
“With DZS and Irby, FASTnet is rolling out transformational, gigabit-class broadband to our formerly underserved members while laying the groundwork for future upgrades to 10-Gig speeds and beyond,” said Brian Clark, CEO and General Manager, FASTnet. “In our geographically diverse and challenging service area, this has required innovative tactics and technology. For example, to cross the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which divides our service area, Irby literally shot fiber across the river.”
“These on-time and on-budget FASTnet and Connect2First rollouts demonstrate how well the DZS/Irby recipe for success works for many electric cooperatives and other operators looking to bring high-speed optical fiber to unserved and underserved constituents,” said Geoff Burke, SVP Product Marketing and Government Affairs, DZS. “Future-ready DZS solutions provide a rock-solid platform for long-term competitive differentiation, while at the same time redefining the economics of network evolution in rural environments. DZS proudly looks forward to growing our partnership with Irby and serving fast-growing, innovative initiatives like those implemented by FASTnet and Connect2First that are closing the digital divide across the U.S. and around the globe.”
“FASTnet and Connect2First’s incredible progress are a result of their hard work and determination, as well as the value of strategic partners like Irby and DZS,” said Patrick Reams, VP of Technology and Communications, Irby Utilities. “From a fiber project’s inception, Irby and DZS account for the network’s entire lifespan: today’s grant funding, logistics, and end-user need, and tomorrow’s supply chain, speed demands, and inevitable hardware/software upgrades. We combine these variables into one sustainable, dependable network that fast-tracks growth to underserved areas and easily scales with internet subsidiaries like Connect2First and FASTnet.”
Irby and DZS are helping Connect2First and FASTnet plan for and rapidly deploy cutting-edge Access and Subscriber Edge solutions which include:
- DZS Velocity Broadband Access Edge solutions. DZS Velocity V14 multi-terabit systems, featuring environmentally hardened Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) optical line terminal (OLT) line cards that support multi-gigabit services leveraging Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON), 10-Gigabit Symmetrical PON (XGS-PON), and combo technologies.
- DZS Helix Subscriber Edge solutions. DZS optical network terminals (ONTs) provide wired connectivity within the home, while advanced DZS Mesh technology enables carrier-class WiFi networks for whole-home coverage and small business use.
DZS and Irby prepare utility cooperatives and other broadband innovators for the future of broadband, focusing on non-disruptive upgrades that leverage existing investments and seamlessly accommodate multi-vendor scenarios as well as emerging service demands that require low latency and massive bandwidth. DZS and Irby have also demonstrated an exceptional track record of supporting their mutual customers to leverage government programs like RDOF, the CARES Act, ReConnect loans and grants, and Capital Projects Funds to help offset costs.
To learn more about DZS, visit https://www.dzsi.com.
About 4-County Electric Power Association
4-County Electric Power Association is a member-owned electric power distributor, supplying power from the Tennessee Valley Authority across all or parts of nine counties in East Central Mississippi. Committed to improving the quality of life for all those we touch, 4-County has spent more than 80 years building and maintaining a strong and reliable electric system to bring affordable power to our members. Running FASTnet Fiber alongside our electric system now lets us offer the fastest, most reliable internet speeds to our members at affordable prices. FASTnet will also support “smart grid” technology to make sure our system always operates at peak performance.
About First Electric Cooperative Corporation
First Electric Cooperative Corporation is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative that was incorporated in 1937 as the first electric cooperative in Arkansas. First Electric energized its first power lines in April 1938 near Jacksonville, Arkansas, with three employees and 150 members. Today, First Electric serves more than 100,000 member accounts throughout parts of 18 counties in central and southeast Arkansas. It owns and maintains more than 10,100 miles of distribution power lines, over 201,000 power poles, over 106,000 meters and 46 substations. First Electric is the second-largest distribution cooperative in Arkansas and one of the 33 largest among over 900 electric cooperatives in the US.
About Irby Utilities
Irby was founded in 1926 and is based in Jackson, Mississippi. The company has evolved into two distinct operations, of which Irby Utilities is an industry leader with 57 locations supporting activity in 47 states. The employees of Irby Utilities serve customers with innovative products and services through its diverse portfolio in four major business channels: electric, broadband, gas, and capital project services. To find out more, visit www.irbyutilities.com.
DZS Inc. (Nasdaq: DZSI) is a global leader of access, optical and cloud-controlled software defined solutions.
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Kenny Vesey, Thatcher+Co.