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February 17th, 2023
Render and Irby Utilities empower rural Tennessee utility to connect high-speed broadband in record time

DENVER- Render Networks, a global leader in geospatial network construction technology, and Irby Utilities, a turnkey utility fulfillment and broadband solutions provider today announced Bolivar Energy Authority (BEA) leveraged a combined construction and operations solution to move rapidly from deployment to connecting its first customers in just ten weeks. BEA utilized Render’s geospatial construction technology and Irby Utilities’ project management and material logistics services to expedite the construction and deployment of the West Tennessee fiber network serving 11,300 rural locations.

The demand for connectivity across the state is growing at an exponential rate, with a reported one in six Tennesseans lacking access to broadband. Aeneas Internet and Telephone has partnered independently with both Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Bolivar Energy Authority to bring this much needed service to under-served areas across Hardeman County and parts of Fayette, Chester, and Madison counties in Tennessee.

Utilizing funding from the $500 million Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan program announced by the State of Tennessee, BEA began construction in July 2022 and completed 379 miles of the fiber network build by January 2023, with over 4,196 previously unserved locations deployed and fast-tracked for connection.

BEA began deploying fiber as part of a plan to upgrade the Smart Grid communications network for operation of its electric system. In addition to broadband access, BEA will use the communications network to further increase electric reliability for its customers. This project is a win-win for BEA customers – access to affordable high-speed internet while modernizing the electric grid to reduce outage times and operating expenses.

Tony Kirk, CEO of Bolivar Energy Authority, said: “We knew our community needed this fiber network. It would deliver access to digital education, healthcare, and other essential services that are increasingly delivered online. Building a rural fiber network in today’s environment was certain to provide a number of challenges, ranging from funding compliance, materials and labor availability, and more. Render and Irby alleviated material and labor concerns and allowed us to expedite the construction process and gain valuable visibility and efficiencies across the project. Real-time data and reporting has significantly streamlined our funding reporting obligations and ensured we are being reimbursed as construction progresses. This technology-led approach and outcomes achieved position us well to attract future broadband funding and deliver high-speed broadband to our entire community faster than planned.”

Render’s geospatial construction and unified data capabilities, partnered with Irby’s proven project management and material logistics, enabled BEA to expedite the construction process and optimize both field crew and material resources to deliver the project and connections ahead of schedule. Digital as-built data and workflows show geo-location of completed work enabling greater visibility of resources utilized and progress across unserved locations and completely automating the grant reporting and reimbursement process.

Sam Pratt, CEO of Render Networks, said: “It is an exciting time for the fiber industry with a wide variety of state and federal funding programs available to build reliable, high-speed broadband services and connect communities to new opportunities. At Render, our mission is to help customers build smarter and optimize resources in a constrained market to ensure communities, like those supported by BEA, are being connected to quality internet faster.”

Geff Smith, SVP of Technology & Communications at Irby Utilities, said: “Our work with Render and BEA in Tennessee and Mississippi exemplifies what we can accomplish in rural and underserved communities throughout the United States. We select only the best partners so that service providers have access to best-in-class solutions and services and they can quickly accomplish their network goals.”

Render and Irby Utilities continue an ongoing partnership to deliver cooperative networks across Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, including Clay County Electric Cooperative Corporation, Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation, First Electric Cooperative Corporation, Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Tippah Electric Power Association, and Woodruff Electric Cooperative Corporation.

About Bolivar Energy Authority

Bolivar Energy Authority serves Hardeman County and parts of Fayette, Chester, Madison counties (TN) and Benton County (MS). Total electric customers: 11,221. Residential customers; 9,010. General Power customers under 50KW demand; 2,093. General Power customers between 51 and 4,999KW demand; 118. The Bolivar Energy Authority covers 1,350 miles of power line with an average of 8 customers per mile.

About Irby Utilities

After nearly 100 years in the utility industry as a leading fulfillment and service provider, Irby Utilities developed a broadband solutions division to help electric utilities bring high-speed internet to their rural communities. Irby Utilities delivers complete broadband solutions to its clients—furnishing each with the knowledge, resources, and experience needed to best serve their customers. Since 2018, Irby Utilities has designed nearly 400,000 passings, established more than 45,000 connections over 40,000 miles of fiber and secured over $175 million in state and federal funding for its clients. Irby Utilities uniquely stores and handles its own inventory to better serve utilities, managing millions of dollars in broadband inventory across its warehouses. To learn more, visit www.irbyutilities.com/broadband.

About Render Networks

Founded in 2013 with a mission to build networks better and connect communities, Render has a successful history of streamlining network construction for network operators and their delivery partners. Render’s end-to-end, GIS-based construction and maintenance platform automates work scope creation, ensures resources are highly productive, and provides unmatched real-time visibility, efficiency, and flexibility for office and field teams. By removing paper-based processes, Render’s global customers consistently achieve 20% time and cost efficiencies across their telco infrastructure rollouts. For more information, visit www.rendernetworks.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.