Tri-Co Connections FAQ page for Fiber Project
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did Tri-County want to become a broadband internet provider?
We had been hearing from our members about the lack of high-speed internet in our area for some time. As a cooperative, the mindset is always focused on what we can do to help our members. We were aware that other cooperatives around the country had already begun building and offering fiber-to-the-home to their members, so we knew it was possible. So we decided to do a feasibility study to see if this was a project the cooperative would be able to undertake for its members.
As we saw with the provision of electric to rural America in the 1930s, there are certain essential services that can be best provided by a cooperative. In the 1930s, the cooperative did what investor-owned utilities (IOUs) refused to do at the time –provide electric service to vast stretches of rural north-central Pennsylvania. It wasn’t sufficiently profitable for IOUs to provide electric service to areas of low-density at the time, so the cooperative stepped in on behalf of the individual and bridged that divide in electricity. Similarly, few companies today have committed to providing quality broadband service across much of our service territory. Once again, Tri-County will bridge that divide, although today it is a digital divide. One of the reasons we are well-positioned to deploy broadband throughout the region is because we own the poles needed to carry the fiber optic lines of a high-speed internet system. Because we own those poles, the cooperative doesn’t have to pay pole-attachment fees, which is a significant cost deterrent for companies that don’t have existing infrastructure needed for a fiber build-out.
Why would I want it?
Members in many areas of our service territory will be able to have access to high-speed internet service with competitive pricing for the first time. High-speed connectivity provides many user benefits, including:
- faster page-load times when using the internet
- ability for multiple users within a given household to use the internet simultaneously
- ability to stream movies and television through the internet
- ability to play video games online
- ability to telecommute and teleconference for work
- ability to participate in distance learning
- ability to utilize telemedicine
Is this going to be available to all Tri-County consumer-members?
Yes. We are committed to making high-speed internet available to every consumer-member of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative.
How can I sign up for service?
We are not currently in sign-up mode. Watch for details in upcoming issues of Penn Lines magazine as well as posts on our Facebook page and website, www.tri-countyrec.com
While we know we will be bringing fiber to the Coudersport area of Potter County in Year 1, after that, the build-out will be based on consumer demand. The Tri-County electric system is comprised of five service districts – Coudersport, Germania, Westfield, Liberty and Mainesburg. After the Year 1 construction is complete, we plan to bring fiber to one district each year for each of the remaining 5 years of the project. We will be determining which district has the most demand for broadband service and build fiber within that district in Construction Year 2. The district with the second highest level of demand will be built in Year 3, and so on until construction is complete.
- September 2018 – Issue request for proposal for engineering, design and construction management work
- November 2018 – Award bid for engineering and construction management
- December 2018 to late 2019 – Engineering and design work to take place
- build approximately 100 miles of fiber line in the townships surrounding Coudersport in Potter County, as well as a fiber “ring” or backbone that will network all of the Tri-County substations and offices. Total construction for Year 1 will be about 450-500 miles of fiber line.
- Continued build-out of our system, averaging about 500 miles of fiber construction a year.
Is the fiber service going to be available only to co-op members?
While the aim of the project is to make high-speed internet service available to every member of the cooperative, there will be some areas outside of our service territory where broadband service will be offered to non-members of the cooperative during the initial system-wide build-out. Once we have completed our system build-out, we will determine the feasibility of expanding beyond the bounds of our electric system service territory.
Does the broadband system bring any benefits to the cooperative?
This project will greatly enhance communications between the cooperative’s offices and substations, providing redundancy, reliability, and a fiber communications backbone for operations of the electric system. It will also help with future deployment of smart grid technology. With a better communications system in place, Tri-County will be able to make use of intelligent controls on our system that can remotely monitor and control our grid. This not only enhances efficiencies, but also leads to much greater levels of reliability for our members.
Will this be a cooperative business?
No. Our internet venture will be set up as a limited-liability company (LLC) owned solely by Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative.
Will the business benefit the cooperative financially?
Any economic benefits achieved through our internet company, which will be called Tri-Co Connections, will directly benefit Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative and its membership.
Is there financial risk to the cooperative?
In any business venture, there is always risk. However, the infusion of a substantial amount of grant funding will significantly mitigate that risk.
Will the project cause my electric rates to increase?
No. In fact, our financial analysis of the fiber project shows that the broadband company will have a positive impact to Tri-County’s financials, which translates to a positive impact on rates for our membership.
Why is providing high-speed internet service a good fit for an electric cooperative?
We own the poles that will be used to build the fiber network. We also have the trust of the membership; they know we are not going anywhere. We are invested in our local communities, and we view this need for broadband as an essential component of modern-day life, much as our founders viewed electricity in the 1930s. Electric cooperatives seem to be best positioned to provide solutions for developing high-speed internet networks in our sparsely populated territories.
What is the name for the new company?
Tri-Co Connections LLC
It is too early to know what our costs for providing broadband service will be, but we do know that it will be cost competitive with other providers in our area and will be significantly faster than what is offered by DSL, cable and satellite providers.
We will be making telephone service available to our high-speed internet customers. We do not yet know if any additional services will be offered but will be examining the potential for additional services in coming months.
Are employment opportunities available?
At the onset of the broadband project, the bulk of the work will be contracted out due to the scope of the project and the timeline set by the FCC to complete it. However, we do anticipate there will be a need for installers, IT professionals, cable technicians, marketing and sales representatives and accounting personnel at some point in the future. Position openings will be posted on our website, www.ctenterprises.org, as they become available.