High-Speed Internet Strengthens the
Ability to Do Business. See How It’s
Impacting United’s Territory.
In their most recent Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 14.5 million Americans did not have access to high-speed internet service. However, it is widely accepted by the telecommunications industry that this number is severely understated. For example, broadbandnow.com recently did a study based on 110,000 addresses showing vastly different results compared to the FCC report. Based on Broadband Now’s study, it is estimated that over 42 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet service.
When United set out on its endeavor to provide high-speed internet service to its members, this was the divide (between those with and those without) that the co-op sought to bridge. United set out to improve the quality of life for its members through high-speed internet services as well as to stimulate economic growth and commerce to the communities it serves.
“Internet has become a basic necessity of day-to-day life,” said Marcellus Nixon, United’s vice president of internet services. Nixon has traveled the world, working in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. He has seen firsthand what bringing internet service to an area can mean for economic progress. A few years back, Nixon lived and worked in India building a network from scratch. He was able to see the difference it made in the residents’ lives when internet service was finally made available to them.
An article by the Brookings Institute cited that research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond found that increased high-speed internet infrastructure in rural areas—paired with the amenities, online education and job search opportunities that go along with it —can lead to higher property values, job and population growth, higher rates of new businesses and lower unemployment.
When United set out to improve the communities it serves, it set out to bring economic development opportunities that have not been evident in these areas to date. Economic development is defined as the creation of prosperity from which communities benefit. It is growing the economy and improving the prosperity and quality of life for all residents.
An often-cited World Bank study found that a 10-percentage point increase in internet penetration can lead to a 1.2 percent jump in real per capita GDP growth in developed economies.
One way United’s high-speed internet service has increased economic development opportunities within United’s service territory is aiding members who have a need or an opportunity to work from home. When the Covid-19 pandemic was at its height, working from home was a must for many. Not only did United’s internet service keep members safe during the pandemic, but it now gives them flexibility and the means to do their jobs by any means necessary.
Dave Tucker, an Alvarado member, is a pastor for a church in Bedford, 40 miles away. United’s internet service has changed his work life by saving commuting miles that would have been racked up on his vehicle, saving on gas, plus the added convenience of telecommuting for the first time.
“This high-speed internet service enables me to work a couple days per week from the house, instead of going in every day,” he said. “It feels like we’re not left out so to speak. We are tapped into the best of what is out there.”
United also enables businesses to increase productivity and save money through its world-class internet service.
Daniel Sears is the IT manager at Tesmec USA in Alvarado. The company is a leader in the design, production, and supply of high-powered tracked trenchers for linear excavation and surface miners for bulk excavation. With 12 locations around the world, staying connected and communicating effectively is important.
Since switching to United’s internet, Sears said he has saved his company a lot of money and achieved better connectivity and speeds at the same time.
“We have been able to double our speed and save 70 percent off our internet cost since switching over,” Sears said. “Everybody was happy when we made the switch.”
Tesmec is one of more than 250 commercial enterprises that have made the switch to United’s high-speed internet for business, resulting in better economic opportunities that were not available for years.
GROWING LOCAL BUSINESS
Another way United has brought economic prosperity to its service territory is through the creation of new jobs.
United has partnered with Johnson Communications, which had 30 employees prior to United’s deployment. Headquartered in Alvarado, the company constructs and hangs United’s fiber-optic cables.
Johnson Communications increased its manpower significantly to meet demand for the massive high-speed internet project that United began in 2020. The company now has more than 120 local employees hired to work on United’s project.
UNITED GETS A BOOST
United has invested in internal job creation, too. Currently the internet services department has 22 employees who have joined United’s internet services team. Those were 22 jobs that would not have existed until the creation of the internet service offering.
Heather Wigington, United’s human resource manager, said the addition of high-speed internet has changed the way the co-op looks for new employees.
“We have to be broader in our recruiting and hiring process now,” she said. “We look for folks who have technical backgrounds who know how to do the job, and who are willing to buy into the cooperative culture and provide exceptional service and value in their daily tasks.”
Wigington has personally seen the improvements the internet service offering has made on new hires for United Cooperative Services.
“It’s huge,” she said. “Many of our new employees are no longer having to drive to the metroplex. They can now work at their local co-op, and they can now provide a great service and get an hour or more of their life back.”
Kris Emsoff is one of United’s new network analysts. In his position with United’s network operations center, he continually analyzes and troubleshoots technical matters involved with United’s network.
Emsoff said he left a career at one of the nation’s No. 1 telecommunications companies to work for United because of the unpleasant work environment he endured every day. In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review study, they found that a toxic workplace culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee quitting.
“My old job offered good pay, but I was in constant fear of losing my job,” he said. “Nothing was ever good enough, and it was a toxic work environment. It was very numbers-driven, and every aspect of my position was micromanaged.”
Since Emsoff has joined United, he said he quickly noticed the difference in culture since onboarding fully with United. Not only has Emsoff benefited from a better work culture, but he said he has had a better quality of life since working at United.
“United is the best place I have ever worked,” he said. “It feels like I am part of a big family. Everyone is a team player and willing to help, or work with you to make sure you can do the absolute best job possible. Since working at United, I’ve had more time to spend with my family. I have a better general wellbeing and limited stress levels. I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Check out available jobs on United’s website at www.ucs.net/ucs-careers.