Access to high-speed broadband internet is one of the biggest obstacles facing residents of rural LaGrange County, but LaGrange County REMC is looking to bridge the gap.
The proposed project outlines the potential for a nearly $20 million investment, which will aim to offer fiber optic internet to about 5,500 of our members and cover 525 miles of our service territory in a two-year buildout period.
Internet access today is what electricity was more than 80 years ago. The cooperative was created to provide electricity to rural areas that larger utilities wouldn’t invest in, and we hope to do the same with broadband.
The REMC’s decision to pursue the deployment of broadband began in 2019 with a member survey that asked for feedback on the wants and needs of the community. More than 95% of members surveyed expressed support for the co-op offering high-speed broadband internet.
A feasibility study through National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative was then conducted to estimate the cost and scope of such a project.
Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The unprecedented health emergency emphasized the need for better broadband service options for rural residents, who found themselves grappling with inadequate internet as they worked from home, attended school virtually and visited with their physicians through online video apps.
The scope of our project will be dependent on the amount of funding secured through federal, state and local grants. We recently announced our application for $5 million in LaGrange County Major Moves funding to help launch our deployment.
If adequate funding is received, the cooperative plans to provide symmetrical – same speeds for download and upload speeds – fiber to the home and business, with speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second with no data caps.
A recent Purdue University study showed that investment in rural broadband yields a 4:1 benefit for the economy, meaning our project could potentially provide a $100 million benefit to LaGrange County. It’s hard to ignore those numbers and the positive impact such a project could have in boosting economic development and our members’ quality of life throughout the county.
High-speed internet, such as fiber optic, enables a host of opportunities, which have been even further highlighted in the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes working from home, e-learning, telemedicine, home-based business, entrepreneurship and home entertainment and security.
LaGrange County REMC is choosing fiber optic as its medium to deploy broadband because it provides:
- The fastest speed/highest bandwidth technology available, more than 100 times faster than DSL service.
- Proven technology, as fiber optic cables installed 40 years ago are still in use.
- Symmetrical bandwidth of download/upload speeds.
- High reliability because it’s not subject to weather or electromagnetic interference.
Our plan lays out that basic service of 50 Mbps will be provided for $60 per month, with additional service tiers available at speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second.
But what makes LaGrange County REMC ideally suited to bring a rural broadband project to fruition in LaGrange County?
We are local – built by our community more than 80 years ago – and we are committed to its success.
We are not-for-profit, and our excess margins are reinvested or allocated and returned to our members.
We are owned, and led, by our members. Our board of directors is democratically elected by the membership – the owners of the cooperative.
We have the infrastructure already in place. We can leverage the existing network of electric distribution poles to efficiently build out the fiber optic network.
We have access to national partners that have successfully completed similar projects across the United States.