MARTINSVILLE — South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation (SCI REMC) recently began construction of a fiber-to-the-home network, SCI Fiber, across its service territory. Construction on the SCI Fiber network started this week and will be available to 3,754 homes in early 2019. The first construction area, known as Phase 1, is southeastern Morgan County near Cope and Taggart Crossing, northwestern Brown County near Waycross, and around Lake Lemon in Monroe County. SCI REMC members in these areas will have high-speed internet available up to 1 Gigabit per second.

SCI Fiber is asking that customers pre-register for service on their site Once the technology is installed and tested, SCI will contact preregistered customers to start scheduling installations. At installation, SCI Fiber will connect the fiber line to homes and set up the equipment.

“Today, quality of life and economic development are tied to the availability of high-speed internet,” said SCI REMC President and CEO James Tanneberger. “Communities within our service territory are underserved, and we recognize the positive role SCI REMC can play in meeting our members’ needs.”

High-speed internet in rural areas has been a large cause, shared by several groups including the Office of the Lt. Governor of Indiana, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and local legislators.

Since 1939, SCI REMC has provided essential electric services, mostly in remote rural locations. Availability of high-speed communications and internet access in the areas they serve has today become as critical to the health and prosperity of rural communities as availability of electricity service was in the 1930s.

“Access to a high-speed internet connection has gone from a luxury to a necessity, and most of our electric members are at risk of being left behind,” said Tanneberger. “We want to make sure this does not happen.”

High-speed internet access in the rural areas means more economic development with businesses being able to move into these areas, potentially higher property values for electric co-op members, access to advancements like telehealth, online classes and more. Additionally, installing fiber throughout the SCI REMC service territory will help modernize electric operations to meet members’ growing desires to save energy through load control and other functions that require smart infrastructure.

SCI Fiber is a division of SCI REMC, a member-owned cooperative electric distribution facility. A cooperative is a business owned by its customers, known as members. SCI REMC is one of 38 rural electric cooperatives in Indiana. Electric cooperatives were organized throughout the state in the 1930s. At that time, investor-owned utilities were supplying power in urban areas but would not supply electric power to rural customers. This was common across the country at that time in history. People living in rural areas saw that those in cities had electricity and wanted it as well. As a result, with loans from the Rural Electrification Administration, rural communities banded together and created electric cooperatives. Hoosiers 79 years ago in Morgan, Monroe, Owen, Brown, and parts of Putnam, Clay and Johnson counties, pooled their money, and set poles and tied lines by hand to bring electricity to rural South Central Indiana in the form of SCI REMC.