Board Approves First Phase of Fiber-To-The-Home

Board Approves First Phase of Fiber-To-The-Home

Family gathered in living room and using electronic devices As the first step in a very long process, your board of directors has approved moving forward with a fiber-to-the-home project that is intended to benefit all HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members.

The project involves installing fiber optic cable along our electric system. This high-speed data line would serve two purposes:

1) Creating a network of system data that will help our engineers, dispatchers, and line crews maintain and strengthen our system against animals, storms, and load growth, and

2) Providing our members in rural mid-Michigan with state-of-the-art high-speed internet service.

“Most of us don’t remember when co-ops were formed in the late 1930s. Farmers worked together because none of the big utilities would bring power lines to their homes and families,” says general manager Mark Kappler. “But our history is being repeated now with high-speed internet access.

“Just as electricity was essential to improving lives 80 years ago, high-speed internet is needed for education, economic development, and overall quality of life here.”

Kappler adds that overall success will be measured in three ways: a) every member will have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet; b) a fiber network will not negatively affect electric reliability or service; and c) fiber-to-the-home as an internet service will break even financially.

There are currently 60 electric co-ops across the U.S. building fiber networks, and another 200 or so are looking into it as we have been doing. Our due diligence included two member surveys and two feasibility studies. We also made several visits to Midwest Energy & Communications in Cassopolis, who started their own fiber project four years ago and are now well over half-way to completing their build-out.

Because building a 3,300 mile network is a big project, even using our existing poles, this is being planned as a phased approach which will likely take six years before we’ve built out to every location. The board of directors will review member acceptance and other factors before deciding to move forward in each of the planned five phases.

Members can get involved in planning each phase through an innovative crowd-sourcing process. We will set up a special website where interested members can vote for their area to be built out next by signing up for the service, and encourage their neighbors to sign up as well. The more people who sign up in an area, the faster they’ll get service. Sign-ups will be available online or via phone to our customer service team.

These details, and more, will be determined over the next few months and details will be announced as they’re available in early 2018.

(published in November-December 2017 issue of Michigan Country Lines)

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