In 2019, your cooperative spent a great deal of time assessing the importance of broadband internet service and how we could help bridge the current gap that exists between northeast Indiana and the more urban areas of our state.
Unfortunately, before we could get through the first couple of months of 2020, the effects of COVID-19 began to appear on the horizon. By spring, we all witnessed our economy shut down, businesses closed, unemployment skyrocketed, schools and events were canceled, and our kids struggled to complete the school year at home. The infrastructure needed to support e-learning did not exist or couldn’t handle the new demands.
Rural America is facing an added crises as it relates to the availability of broadband internet service. Our quality of life and our ability to compete economically is at risk. Consider just how much the internet has changed the way we receive our health care, education, entertainment and the way we communicate in the last few months. I think we can get a pretty good glimpse at what the future has in store. In fact, there are many who believe that this service may ultimately prove to be just as important to rural America as electricity was in the 1930s and ’40s.
The board feels having a dependable fiber optic network is the only long-term solution.
So, after months of research, Steuben County REMC will begin providing broadband internet service to our members.
As a first step in this endeavor, your cooperative will be purchasing iMAN and its dark fiber optic network currently owned by the Steuben County Community Foundation for $2.8 million. With its strategic locations and it proximity to our substations, this asset will become a great jumping off point for developing our fiber to the home network over the next four to five years. With a continued investment of up to $25 million, this important piece of infrastructure will be capable of meeting our region’s needs for generations. It will be operated with the same commitment to service and not-for-profit, competitive rate design that our electric cooperative members have come to expect.
This will be a big investment, and we will try to offset it with as many state and federal grants as possible. However, the reality of any new service is larger front-end expenses and slow start-up revenue streams.
Therefore, there will be a certain amount of rate pressure in the beginning. By optimizing our engineering, deployment schedules and marketing, we believe that we can limit this impact to just a couple of dollars per month, for most members. This would still allow us to have one of the most competitive electric rates in the area.
However, with that being said, if we consider the alternative of doing nothing as the rest of the world passes us by, the cost to our rates and more importantly, our way of life, we believe will be far greater.
Clearly, this is an exciting time for your cooperative, but we do not want to forget the hard work done over the last 20 years to build iMAN into the network it is today. Because of the foresight and courage of the Steuben County Community Foundation and the support of our cities and county officials, this system will serve as a capable backbone to expanding broadband internet service to northeast Indiana. On behalf of our board of directors and members, I would like to thank them for their efforts and compliment them on a job well done.
We will have a big job ahead of us. Our members have been here before when we lit up our future with electricity at a time when no one else would. Today, we find ourselves in a similar circumstance and it is again time to cooperatively light our future with electricity and broadband internet service.
Board of Directors Election Results
- Gary Shough
- Scott Charters
- Marc Nelson
Each were elected as directors during the annual meeting!
More than 1,500 members voted. Thank you!