In the current times, access to high-speed internet is a vital service and will likely improve the economy, the education system, and the general quality of life. Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) is stepping in to bridge the digital divide in the rural communities we serve. For a long time, members have expressed frustration with the lack of internet or slow internet in our service territory. But that’s about to change. In 2021, TEC will begin to build out high-speed, fiber-to-the-home internet service, “TEC FIBER.”
For the past two years, TEC staff and directors have spent countless hours thoroughly evaluating monumental amounts of data and information to self-educate and understand so that a sound and responsible decision could be made for our members, the cooperative, and the surrounding communities. Needless to say, this $75 million capital investment to build the TEC FIBER network was not taken lightly.
Late in 2020, TEC participated in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction in hopes to secure funding to help support the operations of a fiber internet service business. TEC was successful in its bidding strategy and was awarded $22.4 million, to be paid in annual payments over the next ten years. Bidding was done by census block groups (CBGs) created by the FCC. CBGs are defined geographical areas that can differ greatly in size. Some CBGs can consist of many combined townships, while some can be as small as a handful of household addresses.
For any CBG areas that TEC was awarded funding, all households (TEC members and non-TEC members) must be provided access to the fiber service within a specific time-frame schedule. All of these areas must have service available within six years. TEC’s goal is to accomplish it in four. Once the required commitment to these areas is complete, the focus in the following four years will be on extending internet service to the remaining TEC members and surrounding areas. Construction of the fiber infrastructure is tentatively scheduled to begin early this summer, with the first internet services connected before the end of 2021.
While all details are yet to be finalized, TEC FIBER plans to offer residential and business internet packages along with voice-over-internet-phone (VoIP) service. The residential programs are expected to consist of symmetrical (same upload and download speeds) and unlimited data at speeds of 200 Mbps and 1 Gbps.
The addition of TEC’s fiber infrastructure will benefit those who subscribe to TEC FIBER’s service and all TEC electric members. It will serve as the backbone for other advanced technologies that will enable the cooperative to improve electric efficiency, reliability and outage restoration capabilities.
Additional information will be provided to keep you updated on this exciting and life-changing project as it develops in the months ahead. Look for information in our Country Lines publications, online at tecmi.coop and on our Facebook page.
Please note: Enrollment is not available yet. Make sure you get the latest news by keeping your mailing address and email address current.
Q: What is fiber-to-the home internet service?
A: Fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, refers to a technology that can be used to provide communications and entertainment services to your home or business. Fiber allows members to access state-of-the-art voice, data, and video services over fiber optic cable, which is as thin as a human hair. The greatest benefit of fiber-to-the-home internet service is the amount of information and services that can be provided over a single connection. Additionally, the service offers unsurpassed speed, reliability, and clear connections.
Q: Why is TEC offering FTTH?
A: Our members have told us there is a need for better internet in our service area to improve the quality of life. Many people in rural Michigan don’t have access to a dependable, fast internet connection, which can impact their ability to do basic things on the internet, as well as work from home, stream video/ audio, expand businesses and more. We strive to offer reliable energy, comfort and communications solutions to enhance our members’ quality of life. Access to high-speed fiber internet is a solution that builds on our past successes in delivering reliable electricity with outstanding service to our members.
Access to a fiber data system will help our engineer and operation teams monitor and maintain our electric system more accurately, respond to outages faster, and plan for system upgrades in an effective manner.
Q: When will fiber internet service be available to serve my home or business?
A: We expect to begin subscribing to fiber internet service as early as late 2021. We anticipate beginning construction in summer 2021, with construction taking up to eight years to build out the entire system. Construction will involve stringing fiber optic cable to our poles and underground where needed.
Q: When will members be able to sign up for service?
A: We will notify members when we are ready to offer service in their area.
Q: Will FTTH affect my electric bill?
A: The plan for TEC FIBER service is to not have a negative impact on your bills, rates, or electric service. In fact, TEC FIBER will be structured as a nonprofit business division within the cooperative. Just as TEC members have received their share of profits (patronage) based on electric use, those TEC members getting fiber internet service through TEC Fiber will also be allocated patronage.
Q: How can we get updates on when FTTH service will be available in our area?
A: We plan to make regular news updates on our website, Facebook page, through email, and in Michigan Country Lines magazine.