Rural electricity company Tipmont REMC has acquired internet provider Wintek Corporation, in hopes of expanding broadband to rural residents in west central Indiana. The two companies are joining forces to address the shortage of quality rural broadband internet.
Small business owner Susan Benedict lives just two-tenths of a mile from the Lafayette city limits. She says her businesses productivity was suffering when she could only get slow internet.
“Well you know, trying to run a business on phone lines that were put on in the '30s and '40s is kinda like driving a car to the airport with a flat,” says Benedict. “You might make the plane, but you’re probably going to be the last to board. And that is absolutely no way to run a business.”
Right now, Tipmont is piloting the broadband service in 12 homes and plans to offer internet to all of the company’s 23,000 customers in the next eight years.
Tipmont REMC President and CEO Ron Holcomb says the "alpha" houses have been experiencing the service for about a month now and have had positive comments.
“It’s really important when you have a service that people depend on, like electric service or broadband service, that we make very sure that what we’re providing is highly reliable given the gravity of what’s being provided,” says Holcomb. “So since we are new to the space, we decided to take a slower approach and make sure as we started to ramp up, the service would meet expectations or exceed expectations.”
Wintek co-owner and COO Oliver Beers looks forward to becoming a part of Tipmont and says the acquisition will hopefully be able to meet the growing demand Wintek struggled to manage alone.
“We’ve done a lot as a private company as best we can, which has been great throughout our entire history,” says Beers. “But in order to help tackle these larger problems on a much greater landscape, you need scale – which is something we’ve struggled with. But moving forward, having the combined venture, that’s going to be huge.”
The prices for internet are competitive with other internet providers, even those in city limits, which Tipmont's President Holcomb says is important.
“Our life has become so intertwined with a high-speed connection that imagining what that life is like without it is almost unimaginable for us that do that,” he says. “But yet we have millions of Americans that suffer from that every day. I think that’s criminal. In fact, I would go as far to say that’s totally anti-American. I mean in America, the notion is that we’re all born at least with some equal opportunity, and that today isn’t happening. If the service is available but unaffordable, is it really available?”
He hopes other rural communities can use this partnership as an example for their area.
“We also believe that this skill and scale is likely to serve as a model for other co-ops across the country seeking to solve the broadband gap,” says Holcomb.
The acquisition is to be completed next year, with no employees to be laid off from either company.