Regional broadband provider Smithville and electric cooperative Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC have formed a limited partnership to deploy broadband to a rural area in Indiana. It is the latest in a recent string of telecom electric broadband partnerships, which have been steadily gaining momentum.
The partnership will focus on bringing broadband to more than 800 homes in an area where UDWI is the power provider and Smithville is the incumbent telecom provider. The schedule calls for construction to get underway soon and be completed by the end of next year.
In a press release, Darby A. McCarty, chairman and CEO of Smithville, said working with UDWI will help lower costs and accelerate fiber access “without impacting either of our customer bases.”
UDWI Board Director Sophie Haywood said in the release that UDWI would not have been able to economically undertake the project on its own.
“Smithville currently has fiber and legacy service customers in Greene and Monroe Counties and other areas served by UDWI, so combining strategic resources in a limited partnership will bring benefits to present and future customers and communities served by both,” said Ms. McCarty in the press release. “Many of these areas have high construction costs, so this partnership will help lower costs and accelerate fiber access without impacting either of our customer bases.”
Plans call for Smithville to provide engineering and telecom expertise and to use some aerial infrastructure assets owned by UDWI in the deployment.
Other Telecom Electric Broadband Partnerships
Smithville, which claims to be Indiana’s largest privately-held telecom provider, announced a similar partnership with another Indiana electric cooperative, SCI REMC, in early 2020. It was just one of at least five telecom electric broadband partnerships announced nationwide last year.
Indiana appears to be somewhat of a hotbed for telecom electric partnerships. One of the first such partnerships resulted in the 2011 formation of NineStar Connect, a broadband provider formed through the merger of an Indiana telco and an Indiana electric cooperative. And in 2019, electric cooperative Wabash Valley Power (WVPA) joined Intelligent Fiber Network, the statewide Indiana fiber network, which at the time was owned by 20 telecom providers in the state.