Connecting to the Backbone of America

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. They comprise 99.9% of all U.S. businesses, over two-thirds of the net new jobs created since 2000 and employ roughly half of America’s private sector workforce according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2021). However, even as vital as small businesses are to the American economy, many are still faced with the hardships created by the digital divide.

Stewart Wholesale is the quintessential rural business. E.H. Stewart started Stewart Wholesale on October 1, 1975 while working full-time as a salesman for Harvey’s GMC in Shawnee, OK. Mr. Stewart continued investing into the business and growing it on the principles of meeting the needs of his customers with reliable, knowledgeable service. By 1979, his efforts resulted in E.H. operating the business full-time. 

Stewart Wholesale continued to grow as customer testimonies spread throughout their industry. In the 1990s, Stewart Wholesale made the jump into the technological era to ensure their business was viable into the future with their first internet connection, a T-1 circuit which delivered a blazing 1.5 Mbps! Over time they added more circuits, culminating in a total of 6 Mbps of bandwidth. The bandwidth barely provided the capacity for their point-of-sale system, much less allowing them to digitize their business to reach online customers nationwide.

“Many times, we find ourselves looking up parts from suppliers and confirming tracking orders on our cell phones because it is faster than our internet connection in the shop,” Earl Crabb, sales manager for Stewart Wholesale, said. “We have grown the business by offering superb customer service and always answering the phone. However, the lack of high-speed internet keeps us from utilizing technology in the way we would like to.” 
They were faced with one option to meet their bandwidth needs – spend tens of thousands of dollars in construction costs to the incumbent provider. That is until CVEC Fiber announced their plans to build fiber internet to serve rural businesses and residents. 

“CVEC Fiber internet is phenomenal! With our previous provider, you couldn’t do multiple tasks at once, much less run a business. With CVEC Fiber, the service is almost too fast,” Crabb said. 
Fast is an understatement. Stewart Wholesale is now operating on a 1 Gig circuit which equates to 167 times their previous bandwidth. 

Small businesses, like Stewart Wholesale, are not merely a building with a product. They are the lifeline of the rural communities that we call home and were built over time with grit, determination, and impeccable customer service. CVEC Fiber, like many other electric cooperatives, are answering the call to provide fast, reliable broadband service throughout Oklahoma to ensure that rural businesses, farms, and ranches have access to the technology that is shaping every industry across our nation, allowing them to not only sustain their operations, but to flourish.