ISP rolls out broadband to rural markets


An installation and maintenance technician connects a fiber Internet cable to an optical network terminal. Courtesy Midwest Connections

An ISP is rolling out broadband service to a number of rural communities in the region.

In 2014, Midwest Connections — an unregulated subsidiary of Midwest Energy Cooperative, and Midwest Energy Cooperative, a regional electrical utility that has about 36,000 customers in southern Michigan, northern Indiana and Ohio — launched "fiber-to-the-premise" broadband Internet service to homes and businesses in "small test markets" in Edwardsburg and Schoolcraft.

The cooperative said last month that the service, branded as TeamFiber, is now offering downloadable speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, or Mbps, to more than 700 subscribers in rural southwest Michigan.

"A necessity"

“It’s amazing to consider that most of our subscribers have only had access to dial-up, satellite and DSL services previously and now have access to the best technology, with some of the highest-speed offerings in the broadband marketplace,” said Bob Hance, president and CEO, Midwest Energy Cooperative.

“Fiber Internet is literally changing the social, economic and educational landscape of our rural area, and the gigabit offering is just one more competitive leg up for southwest Michigan.

"Broadband internet is no longer a luxury. It's a necessity. Today's story is so much like the electrification of rural America in the 1930s. Incumbents won't come in to the rural space, so the rural space is taking care of its own."

Next markets

The cooperative said Midwest Connections is committed to a five-year build-out of its entire southwest Michigan service territory.

This year, the service has been or will be extended into Dowagiac, Calvin, northwest Cassopolis and north Three Rivers.

The first two extensions in 2016 will be Vickburg and North Mendon and Edwardsburg and East Niles.

Investment in fiber

“Technology is changing at a fast-and-furious pace, and we need to be prepared as the electric utility to deliver the products and services that our members want and need," Hance said. "We don't know what's coming, but we do know that the next generation of energy efficiency, safety and reliability standards will require robust, two-way communications across the electric grid.

"By today's standards, fiber is the ultimate communications platform and will provide us with better information and data to serve our electric members. At the same time, it will allow us to offer a true high-speed voice and data solution for those who choose to subscribe to that service."

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