A partnership between Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and the Franklin Electric Plant Board will allow more than 300 WRECC customers in rural Simpson County to have access to high-speed internet service.
In this pilot project, Warren RECC will lease dark (or unused) optical fiber to Franklin EPB, which will then offer its internet service to customers in the pilot area.
According to a WRECC news release, about 350 of its customers in northeast Simpson County and in an area on the southeast side of Franklin will be able to tap into the service that has two options.
Franklin EPB General Manager Bill Borders said the utility will offer a 100-megabit service for $60 per month and a one-gigabit service for $80 per month.
“Franklin EPB Fiber launched residential service to its electric customers about three years ago and will soon complete our planned build-out,” Borders said. “We have had strong interest from residents across Simpson County as well. This will now become a reality for some county residents with WRECC’s commitment to construct fiber and partner with EPB. We appreciate WRECC’s effort to provide the fiber infrastructure that will allow Franklin EPB Fiber to broaden its service area.”
Franklin EPB Fiber will begin taking sign-ups Oct. 15 for installation of the high-speed internet service before the end of the year. The success of this pilot project will help determine if the service is rolled out to more WRECC customers in Simpson County.
“Depending on how the take rate goes, we’ll roll it out to other areas of Simpson County,” Borders said.
He expects a good number of residents to take advantage of the offer, based on the success of the internet service Franklin EPB is providing to its customers in the city of Franklin.
“We’ve had good success with our build-out to our city customers,” Borders said. “Our take rate is at 50 percent, which is ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
WRECC Senior Director of Communication and Public Relations Kim Phelps declined to comment on plans for further partnerships that could provide high-speed internet to underserved parts of Warren County, but she provided a “frequently asked questions” sheet that gives insight into WRECC’s reasons for forming a partnership with the Franklin EPB.
According to the FAQ sheet: “We have studied various options and determined that partnering with experienced internet service providers to provide services is the most effective option. Franklin EPB is already providing high-speed internet services in the city of Franklin. ... We are looking for a way we can leverage our individual strengths and assets together to provide high-speed internet service to our rural members. If those pilots verify our assumptions that we can make this effort work, we will expand this effort.”
It’s clear from the FAQ sheet that rolling out high-speed internet service to all WRECC members isn’t possible without partnerships similar to this pilot project.
“If providing high-speed internet service across all of our system was simple and cost effective, then someone would already be providing the service,” the FAQ sheet reads. “Unfortunately, that is not the case. We believe partnerships with local companies ... are the best opportunity to successfully provide our members this service.”