From the Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC:
Today, construction begins on the first joint fiber project under a partnership with Smithville, Indiana’s largest privately-held telecom, and the Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC (UDWI), according to Darby A. McCarty, Chairman and CEO of Smithville, and Doug Childs, UDWI CEO. Plans call for 280 homes in the joint Smithville/UDWI service area east of Stanford to receive access to Smithville high-speed fiber service, which is nationally recognized.
The first phase begins a construction process that will eventually include about 800 homes in the rural area east of Stanford in Monroe County. The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Additional areas of the project are expected to start construction later in 2021. Smithville is funding construction through private investments made by the company, which will include use of UDWI aerial and other assets. No rate increases will be required to fund this project by either Smithville or UDWI.
“Given Smithville’s current customer base in shared areas served by UDWI in Greene and Monroe counties, this partnership is expected to benefit communities and customers served by both organizations,” said Ms. McCarty. “We expect that this partnership will help accelerate fiber access without raising costs to our mutual base of customers.”
Childs noted, “We’re excited about this first project, as it uses an innovative approach to positively leverage the current and future assets of both organizations while offering additional benefits to our members in shared areas.”
“Even as this first joint project proceeds, UDWI will continue its set plans to improve service reliability through both capital improvements and increased vegetation management without interruption,” said Childs. “It’s a win-win for all.”
Smithville’s engineering teams have completed plans for the initial Monroe County project area, which will include using some aerial infrastructure assets owned by UDWI. Joint planning for the remainder of the project is now underway. The planning process will continue within the two-year timeframe as new construction areas are added within the first Monroe County project.
“We expect that this initial project will allow us to expand our partnership as we consider additional projects,” said Cullen McCarty, executive vice president of Smithville. Future joint projects will be identified based on Smithville’s planned fiber expansion areas and aligned with UDWI’s capital improvement plan, he added.
Smithville and UDWI already both provide service in areas near the $100 million WestGate@Crane Technology Park and other portions of south-central Indiana, where additional joint projects may also materialize. However, the companies will complete their first joint project before actively pursuing additional opportunities, McCarty explained.
“This joint project gives both companies the opportunity to reach customers more quickly with high-speed fiber service that otherwise might be delayed,” said Smithville President Paul Quick. “The past year has fully demonstrated the need for high-speed and high-capacity connectivity and innovative cooperation will help bring a welcome solution to hard-to-reach rural areas.”