The Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) Scales Up Fiber Deployment | FlexNAP™ | Corning

The Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative turned to Corning’s preconnectorized FlexNAP™ system to accelerate their deployment and connect the unconnected

Darin Howe
Published: October 19, 2023

It's no surprise that access to high-speed broadband is coming to be seen as essential to everyday life, much like electricity. Access to broadband means access to opportunity — from education to health care to quality of life. At Corning, we believe everyone should have access to reliable, high-speed broadband, no matter where they live. That’s why we’ve developed an ecosystem to support operators’ deployments, and created future-ready, cost-effective fiber solutions that simplify installation. 

For the network operators who receive a share of the $42 billion for broadband under the federal government's Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, speed of deployment will be crucial. They'll need to meet critical milestones under the terms of the funding agreements.

This is where Corning's focus on speed of deployment, reliability and total cost can help. Our robust connectivity portfolio has spread to pass more than 100 million homes around the globe. At the portfolio’s core are hardened connectors and our preconnectorized FlexNAP system.

When it comes to what Corning can help an operator accomplish, I can’t think of a better example than Texas electricity and internet co-op The Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC).

For GVEC, fiber connectivity was the key to rapidly launching an entirely new aspect of their business -- facilitating faster fiber optic cable installation and bringing high-speed, reliable broadband internet to their members as well as connecting previously underserved areas.

Searching for a better connection

Founded in 1938, GVEC has been lighting up homes and businesses across 3,500 square miles of southeastern Texas for 85 years. In 1998, the company recognized the growing importance of connectivity to people’s lives and started offering fixed wireless internet.

However, while fixed wireless can be set up quickly, it can also struggle to scale with the growing needs of communities. Customers found the service locking up during peak times, and children couldn’t get online to do their homework, etc. GVEC wanted to provide better service to their members by leveraging the benefits of a fiber network, but had no experience installing fiber.

GVEC wanted to avoid complicated and expensive splicing, which requires specialized labor to install. Corning’s FlexNAP system, which utilizes optical fiber cables upon which network access points are preterminated at customer-specified locations along the length of the cable was just what they needed. This solution can be installed up to five times faster per network access point, and I’ve seen it help operators like GVEC build networks quickly and deliver reliable connectivity in a cost-effective manner when speed of deployment is essential.

GVEC is among a growing number of providers embracing our innovative solutions. Others around the U.S. experienced similar benefits, such as Central Oregon, where it took only one week to connect customers – and traditional installation would have taken six to eight weeks. Even more impressive, a similar project in Alabama helped a local telecom provider deploy fiber in three weeks, a process that previously took up to six months.

I know this technology can help bridge the digital divide in less-dense areas of the U.S. like rural Texas.

Pilot generates impressive results

In 2012, Corning worked with GVEC to launch a fiber pilot project in La Vernia, Texas, a bedroom community for San Antonio. At the time, La Vernia was an underserved community where the only option for internet access was through fixed wireless access. Through this pilot project, GVEC planned to bring fiber to 2,200 homes in order to test the business model and to see how their membership would respond to fiber connectivity.

GVEC needed the adoption rate on this pilot to reach 45% to make the economics worth it. They selected FlexNAP as the platform, knowing the ease of installation would make the investment pay off. And it did – in spades. The adoption rate turned out to be 92%, showing residents were eager to adopt fiber. And I was thrilled to see that the bet on FlexNAP paid dividends, as traditional installation would have meant going back and splicing in each individual customer after the main cable was laid, a costly proposition when you’re doing it for 92% of your customers.

“We were only able to grow so fast because FlexNAP technology allowed us to connect easily,” said Robert Russell, Executive Engineer of Communications Technology for GVEC.

Expanding to the underserved

The success of the pilot program allowed GVEC to take their internet arm,, which had originally been a for-profit subsidiary, and fold it into the core mission of the cooperative in 2017. This meant an ambitious expansion into less dense rural areas that had traditionally been lacking quality internet access. GVEC could help connected the unconnected in their coverage area and we supported this mission.

U.S. Census Bureau data found that nearly 2.8 million Texas households (about 7 million individuals) lack broadband access, while another 23% of the state’s population has limited ability to fully take advantage of broadband’s benefits, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office. Connectivity can have a positive impact on local economies as well – communities with broadly deployed fiber networks saw a 35% boost in GDP, and total income is 73% higher for households with fiber broadband.

Practically, this meant that where GVEC had been connecting homes in areas with a density of about 100 homes per mile, they were now working in areas with eight to 11 homes per mile -- making a cost effective and speedy deployment even more valuable as it helped them achieve their goals ahead of schedule. Originally, GVEC hoped to bring fiber to 80% of their underserved rural market by 2025, but they hit that number in 2023 – and they’re not slowing down.

Connectivity has allowed GVEC to expand at a rapid pace. The company is now able to bring fiber to an 80- to 100-mile section of their network in about six weeks – something that would not have been possible with traditional installation methods. In fact, GVEC has been doing between 250 and 300 fiber installs per month since about 2018. That consistency is made easy by not having to worry about sending splicing teams out to open up cables and terminal boxes to connect customers. Rather, it’s just plug-and-play.

“Over the years, we’ve grown in our appreciation of the FlexNAP™ pre-connectorized system to the point that we don’t want to get away from it,” said Russell. “We still think it’s the most cost-effective, reliable method of installing service.”

To learn more about GVEC’s FlexNAP deployment click here. For sales inquiries, fill out the form below and talk to one of our experts.

Darin Howe

Darin Howe is an Application Solutions Manager for FTTH and 5G Applications with Corning Optical Communications. Darin’s primary focus is on the road map and development of new FTTH and 5G Solutions to meet customer needs and solve important problems. He has 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, working primarily with Outside Plant cable and FTTx deployments. Darin has served in various roles at Corning including Field Engineer, FTTH Project Manager, Product Specialist and Market Development Manager. Prior to working for Corning, Darin served for 8 years as a Signal Corps Officer in the United States Army and Army Reserve. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University.

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