Local businesses start pilot initiative to bring more connection to rural neighborhoods

Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation and RiverStreet Networks will be working on a pilot program to enable the expansion of high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas in our local rural communities. This effort could become a model for providing much needed high-speed internet access to rural North Carolina. For the last three years, Piedmont Electric has been building a fiber-optic system to connect its offices, substations and equipment in the field. This network helps provide better electric service to co-op members. Once completed, this system will also provide the backbone for RiverStreet who will then build their own network to supply individual homes and businesses, where wireless signals can reach, with quality, high-speed internet. 

Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation and RiverStreet Networks will be working on a pilot program to enable the expansion of high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas in our local rural communities. This effort could become a model for providing much needed high-speed internet access to rural North Carolina.

For the last three years, Piedmont Electric has been building a fiber-optic system to connect its offices, substations and equipment in the field. This network helps provide better electric service to co-op members. Once completed, this system will also provide the backbone for RiverStreet who will then build their own network to supply individual homes and businesses, where wireless signals can reach, with quality, high-speed internet. 

“Many homes, farms and businesses in our communities do not have adequate access to broadband service,” said Steve Hamlin, President and CEO of Piedmont Electric. “Every week we hear stories from our members about how students can’t complete their homework, families can’t connect to relatives, seniors can’t access telemedicine and businesses can’t connect to the services they need to grow and thrive.” 

Piedmont Electric stressed that this effort will be led by members and others living in our community. In order to accurately determine the need and interest for this service, Piedmont Electric is relying on the community-at-large to express interest in having high-speed internet by entering their home address at join.buildpiedmont.com. Once enough interest has been expressed in a specific area, RiverStreet will explore expanding their service network there. 

“We are excited to work with RiverStreet in order to provide this critical need,” Hamlin said. “While we know it will take years to mature and RiverStreet may not be able to serve everyone with wireless technology, we are happy to announce this first step in helping bridge the digital divide.”

Piedmont Electric delivers electricity to more than 32,000 accounts, primarily in rural areas of Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange and Person counties, and recognizes firsthand the benefits that access to high-quality, high-speed internet will have on their communities. Likewise, RiverStreet Networks is a fiber to the home solutions provider focused on bringing connectivity to rural areas across North Carolina. 

“RiverStreet Networks is a subsidiary of Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation, a cooperative business with a mission of serving members, just like the electric cooperatives,” said RiverStreet Networks President and CEO Eric Cramer. “We have a long history of collaboration with the state’s electric cooperatives, and this effort will allow us to expand that relationship and achieve our mutual goal of providing more rural North Carolina communities with broadband connectivity.”