Tri-County REC secures federal support for regional high-speed internet project

MANSFIELD, PA — The Federal Communications Commission announced today that Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative was among the successful bidders in the Connect America Fund II Auction, securing federal support that will enable the utility to make broadband internet service available to its consumer-members across north-central Pennsylvania.

The cooperative, with headquarters in Mansfield, Pa., was awarded $3.2 million in annual support for 10 years through the auction process.

“We are excited for the opportunity to deliver high-speed, fiber-optic internet service to the homes, farms and businesses across our service region,” said Craig Eccher, Tri-County president and chief executive officer. “This will provide our rural region of Pennsylvania with first-class internet service and enable our consumer-members to enjoy smooth, uninterrupted live streaming and lightning-fast download speeds that those living in urban areas take for granted. We also expect the availability of broadband internet service to spur economic development in our region, creating opportunities in areas such as telemedicine and distance learning, and opening doors for future business ventures.”

With the federal support in place, Eccher said the cooperative will proceed with plans for a full fiber roll-out across the co-op’s service territory over a six-year period. The cooperative serves more than 16,600 consumer-members in Bradford, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties.

“Our goal is to bring broadband to rural communities just like we brought electricity to them back in the 1930s,” Eccher said. “The entire initiative is a six-year project with 2,700 miles of fiber delivering high-speed internet to our members. We are eager to move forward with a project that has such transformational possibilities for our region.”

News of Tri-County’s success in the Connect America Fund II Auction comes just weeks after the cooperative was awarded a $1.5 million matching grant through the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project program. The state funding will be utilized for the first phase of the co-op’s multi-year broadband deployment. The phase-one work entails construction of 103 miles of fiber in Potter County.

Eccher said the cooperative will begin seeking proposals to design and construct the Coudersport-area component of the broadband network next week, with physical construction to begin in 2019.