South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation (SCI REMC) kicked off its anticipated fiber-to-the-home business (SCI FIBER) today. The first areas set to receive high-speed internet services through SCI are southeastern Morgan County near Cope and Taggart Crossing, northwestern Brown County near Waycross, and around Lake Lemon in Monroe County. Construction is set to begin in June, and SCI plans to offer members in these areas an opportunity to start signing up for service at the end of the year.
At the event, State Senator Eric Koch (District 44) stated, “South Central Indiana REMC was originally formed to solve a big infrastructure problem—lack of electricity in rural Indiana. Here we are 80 years later, and SCI REMC is announcing they are solving the 21st Century problem of a lack of electricity—a lack of high-speed internet service in rural Indiana.” Koch has authored several pieces of legislation over years designed to solve the lack of rural internet in Indiana, including the bill for infrastructure development zones in 2013, the broadband-ready community bill in 2015, and the Senate-Enrolled Act in 2017 that allows electric co-ops to utilize existing electric poles for fiber installation.
“Today, quality of life and economic development are tied to the availability of high-speed internet. Communities within our service territory are underserved, and we recognize the positive role SCI REMC can play in meeting our members’ needs. A collaborative effort, I give credit to my fellow board members for their fastidious dedication to our members, and to the staff of SCI REMC for working diligently to make fiber a reality. Both were needed to make this project possible,” said SCI REMC Board Chairman Bruce Hamlin.
Phase I will include offering service to approximately 3,754 homes. The selected locations explore the many scenarios SCI will encounter throughout the construction process, including uneven terrain, both underground and overhead installations, and more, in order to put the co-op in the best position to succeed as they get the business up and running.
“We are working to fill a need in our rural communities, and in wanting to be transparent through it all, we area posting updates and frequently asked questions on a dedicated website www.sciremc.com/scifiber,” said SCI REMC President and CEO James Tanneberger. “We encourage people to visit this site often for updates, and to preregister for service, which will help us gauge interest, as well as be a factor in how our construction will progress.”
High-speed internet in rural areas has been a large cause, shared by several groups including the Office of the Lt. Governor of Indiana, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), local legislators like Rep. Eric Koch, electric cooperatives and more.
Since 1939, SCI REMC has provided essential electric services, mostly in remote rural locations. Availability of high-speed communications and internet access in the areas we serve has today become as critical to the health and prosperity of rural communities as availability of electricity service was in the 1930s. Access to a highspeed internet connection has gone from a luxury to a necessity, and most of our electric members are at risk of being left behind. We want to make sure this does not happen. We want to fulfill the cooperative’s responsibility to the community as implied by Cooperative Principle #7, which states, “While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.”
High-speed internet access in the rural areas means: more economic development with businesses being able to move into these areas, potentially higher property values for electric co-op members, access to advancements like tele-health, online classes and more. Additionally, installing fiber throughout the service territory will help modernize electric operations to meet members’ growing desires to save energy through load control and other functions that require smart infrastructure.