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Building the Infrastructure to Serve Our Members

OPALCO is looking to CenturyLink–as well as to other ISPs–to utilize our infrastructure for the benefit of our membership and, in particular, to improve access to broadband in San Juan County.

Productive negotiations with CenturyLink leadership continue, and progress has been made toward agreements that would give CenturyLink access to our network at the cost of service—just like any other member. We are optimistic that an agreement will be reached that will benefit the Islands.

OPALCO will continue to construct, maintain and improve our data communications infrastructure to serve our automated distribution system (electrical system devices, substations, field communication and mapping). The cost of this ongoing construction is estimated at $5-7 million over the course of our current Four-Year Construction Work Plan. The cost is included in our USDA/RUS loan and funds are drawn down only after each phase of a project is complete; interest and principal payments are included in our annual budgeting process. As has been the practice since 1937, members help fund the operating, maintenance and construction costs through rates.

Our data communications network brings exponential benefit to our membership. It includes tools that allow the Co-op to: control peak usage and keep power costs down, remotely manage and control the electrical distribution system, manage and resolve power outages more efficiently, integrate and manage community solar projects and improve public safety throughout the county.

OPALCO is currently in the process of hiring a Manager of Information Services to oversee the Co-op’s information and technology services internally and in the field. This hire will supervise the development of a design for the expansion of OPALCO’s data communication network, will manage Island Network to serve our existing institutional and commercial members, and will work with OPALCO leadership to develop a business model to serve other members who cannot otherwise access broadband services.

We appreciate the complexity of these issues and the difficulty these months of study, discourse and decision-making have posed for our board members, in particular, and also for our membership. OPALCO stepped up to help craft a county-wide solution for broadband but, ultimately, it proved too costly to bring to fruition. With good information and organizational growth under our belt, we continue our work–the same work that we began in 1937: building out our system to meet the needs of our community; reaching further and further until all of our members can access the essential services and quality of life benefits that our Co-op can provide.

To keep informed about construction projects–as well as outages and other timely news, please:

  • sign up for our e-newsletter, The Co-op Connector (
  • follow “orcaspower” on Twitter (outage information, mostly)
  • engage with us on Facebook.

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