The Cullman Electric Cooperative announced last month that it will soon be offering its own high-speed internet service, and a series of pop-up events over the past month have let the co-op’s customers learn more about the Sprout Fiber Internet.
The co-op has been out to 12 communities in its coverage area to share the word about the new service and give away some free ice cream and ice cream scoops to interested co-op members.
The original plan was to host large community ice cream socials that would bring in a lot people at the same time, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused those plans to change to a series of pop-up socials that gave people a chance to drive through and get some ice cream while they learned more about Sprout, said Co-Op Communications Manager Brian Lacy.
Wednesday’s stops included West Point and Jones Chapel, and previous ones have been spread out over the co-op’s coverage area to make sure everyone had a chance to stop by, he said.
The Cullman Electric Cooperative is stepping in to bridge the digital divide in rural Cullman County. On Thursday, the cooperative announced the launch of its new internet service, Sprout Fiber.
Lacy said each stop has had plenty of people coming through to find out what Sprout is, or those who had already heard of it and wanted to learn more.
“Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve had a steady flow of traffic the entire time we’ve been there,” he said. “We’ve been really pleased with the turnout and the questions that people have had.”
One of the main questions that people have asked is whether they would be able to get the fiber internet and when they are going to get it, and the co-op offers a tool on its website for people to enter their address to see if they are included in Phase 1 of the service, Lacy said.
Co-op members can visit cullmanec.com/sprout to see if they are included in Sprout’s Phase 1.
Even people find out that they aren’t in Phase 1 of the service’s rollout, filling out the form on the website will still let the co-op know how many people are interested outside of the first phase’s coverage area, Lacy said.
So far, around 4,500 co-op members have visited the Sprout website, with a little more than 3,100 who have completed the form.
Nearly 1,200 of those who have completed the form have been outside of Phase 1’s coverage area, but that information will be used as one of the factors to determine location’s for Phase 2, Lacy said.
“When we start looking at doing a Phase 2, we’ll use some of that information of who’s interested and where people are interested,” he said. “That won’t be the only thing, but one part of the decision making process is seeing which areas have the highest demand.”
Lacy said Phase 1 of Sprout began construction at the beginning of June, and the goal is for the service to be up and running and in homes in the beginning of 2021. Phase 1 will include 12,000 people, or around 25 percent of the co-op’s members, he said.
The co-op plans to offer two internet packages to members, with a 300 Mbps package that will be $59.99 per month and a 1 gigabit package that will be $79.99 per month.
Lacy said several other electric co-ops have recently begun to offer their own internet service, and the Sprout service falls in line with the Cullman Electric Co-op’s mission.
Electric cooperatives were formed in 1930s in communities that had a need for electrical service that no one was providing, and in today’s world, the internet has become a necessary utility just like electricity, he said.
“People need it for their home, work, school and everything they do in life, and as an electric co-op, we’re in a perfect position to help bring that to our community when others haven’t been willing to,” he said.
Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.