A new consortium comprised of nearly two dozen electric and telephone cooperatives looks to provide fiber service to a majority of customers statewide. Accord Telecommunications Collaborative LLC says it will create one of the largest, contiguous, fiber-based networks through a combination of private investment and grant funding. Board Chair James Tanneberger says the creation of Accord has been more than four years in the making.
Tanneberger, who is also CEO of South Central Indiana REMC, tells Inside INdiana Business says the next step is to tie the different Accord members together to create the network.
“The thing that makes Accord unique is we’ve each spent millions of dollars to this point…to get the network in place,” said Tanneberger. “Now, what we’re each looking at is this tie – and we’ve already made some ties with our neighbors – but [it’s] basically getting the members within Accord to get tied to their neighbors.”
Accord says its members provide communications and/or electric services to about 75% of Indiana’s land mass with 20,000 miles of fiber infrastructure and about 40,000 miles of electric lines serving some 300,000 homes and businesses.
Tanneberger says as each Accord member invests in tying their fiber infrastructure to their neighbors, they receive a larger ownership share, which could lead to higher revenues and help Accord be more self-sufficient.
“And that’s what we hope to do with Accord is have Accord be an entity that’s very skinny, that doesn’t take on debt so that it’s members can finance things and do those extensions and make those ties,” he says. “And if you can keep Accord debt free, it really gives you an opportunity to manage something that, from a price perspective, you can do unprecedented things in the state of Indiana.”
Tanneberger says Accord also plans to apply for federal grants as the government plans to distribute billions of dollars for middle-mile and fiber-to-the-home deployments.
Additionally, the consortium aims to grow the number of providers as time goes on.
“While Accord is starting with a base of cooperatives, we are in no way meant to be exclusive,” said Tanneberger. “We simply wanted to set up the company in a way that fits our business model; a model that can work for any other potential partners as well. Having accomplished that, we are ready to partner with providers of all kinds.”
Jerry Haver with Accord says the group has the benefit of having a lot of infrastructure already in place.
“Since so many of [members] have fiber-to-the-home networks and their service territory is adjacent to another service territory, the amount of fiber that needs to be constructed is smaller,” said Haver. “At this point, we’re excited because we have great reach and we have less than what a lot would think to build in order to finish our connections.”
Tanneberger says some of the ties between service providers have already been made, so Accord expects to begin using those parts of the network as soon as possible. He expects it will take about a year to have a “significant network presence” throughout the state.
“We want to make Indiana place where businesses start to look at us and they realize, ‘Wow, all the boxes are already checked anywhere in Indiana, not just in the city, but if I want to go out into the most rural parts of Indiana, there’s infrastructure there.’ And that’s what we want.”
The formation of Accord was announced about two weeks after the creation of Hoosier Net LLC, another group of internet service providers that aims to create a “middle-mile” fiber network throughout the state.
Tanneberger says Hoosier Net is a separate entity that covers some different geographic areas. He says the two groups share three of the same members, and Accord plans to work with Hoosier Net and others “toward achieving the goal of making Indiana the most connected state.”
You can view a list of the participating cooperatives in Accord by clicking here.