Rock Island: why it makes sense for OPALCO | Guest column

by Orcas Power

and Light Cooperative

The news last week that Orcas Power and Light Co-op and Rock Island have joined forces to deliver Internet services to islanders in San Juan County is the latest in a long chain of thoughtful decisions and deliberate action on the part of the OPALCO leadership.

“This is a community effort reminiscent of getting electricity to the islands back in 1937,” said Bob Myhr, OPALCO board member since 1986. “It’s a game changer.  Moreover, the revenue from Rock Island will come at just the right time to help finance the increasingly expensive costs of necessary future submarine cable replacements, hence – keeping the power flowing to us the islands.”

OPALCO funded the start-up costs and working capital for Rock Island Communications in the form of a loan. The impact on members is $3 per month for 24 months and is included in the recent rate increase.

The merger with Rock Island is a mutually beneficial effort. Rock Island founder Mike Greene calls it a “win-win-win.”  Both parties share a strong desire to meet the communication needs of islanders in San Juan County. Rock Island Communications is a local company committed to providing excellent service for the benefit of the local community.

There are currently 1,982 members in the queue for service – mostly through the more than 80 neighborhood associations who have organized to get connected.  Rock Island Communications will reach the break even point at 2,000 – 3,000 customers. After that, Rock Island will grow based on demand, funding its own expansion and then returning a positive cash flow to OPALCO.

New Internet connections will be made in a strategic fashion to maximize the number of people reached with greatest cost efficiency. As a result, Rock Island Communications is working first with neighborhood associations and density clusters closest to the existing infrastructure. However, anyone interested in service should fill out the interest form at and get your location on the map for future connections. Rock Island will provide several types of service; availability of services and technologies will vary by location.

“We couldn’t be in a better position,” said Foster Hildreth, OPALCO general manager and president of Rock Island Communications.

“The acquisition of Rock Island allows us to move much faster in getting folks connected to the services they are asking for and speeds up the profitability of the enterprise. We have up to 18 submarine cables to replace over the next 30 years. This revenue stream will help us to fund those capital projects outside of rates. ”