2017-08-12 / News

Bringing broadband to Potter County

A historic expansion of high-speed internet service in sections of Potter County is in the cards for Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, according to reports presented at the organization’s annual meeting in Troy.

It’s a pilot project that could lead to deployment of the fiber-optic network throughout many other sections of the co-ops seven-county service area.

CEO Craig Eccher said the initial build-out could begin delivering service by the end of the year.

“Cooperatives may be the only option to bring true broadband to rural areas, just like it took cooperatives to bring electricity to those areas,” Eccher said.

Board chairman Matthew Whiting elaborated on Tri-County’s focus on fiber-optic technology and its potential impact on economic development.

“Almost every business and industry, from the medical field to manufacturing, transfers large amounts of data that require high-speed connectivity,” Whiting said. “Communities that don’t have that are disadvantaged compared to those that do. If we can find a way to deliver that, I think we’ll see some economic benefit.”

A five-year blueprint calls for a 2,800- mile network of fiber-optic cable reaching some of the most remote stretches of the co-op’s sprawling service area. A business plan and local partnerships will need to be developed. REC is also pursuing government grants.

Also at the annual meeting, Tri-County REC retained three, Nicholas

Reitter of Genesee, Lowell Geiser of Galeton and Matthew Whiting of Lawrenceville, on its board of directors. Whiting will continue to serve as chairman.

Tri-County REC, founded in 1936, provides electricity to approximately 17,500 residential, commercial and industrial customers in parts of Potter, Cameron, Bradford, McKean, Clinton, Tioga and Lycoming counties.

It was an outgrowth of the federal Rural Electric Act, which freed money for expansion of electricity to unserved parts of the country. REC officials expect the upcoming fiber-optic network to have a similar impact, bringing technology to thousands of homes, farms and businesses.

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