The following text is from a presentation by Tipmont REMC Communication Director Rob Ford given at the 2022 Annual Meeting on September 17, 2022.
When we announced our broadband project at our 2017 Annual Meeting, the feedback was a mixture of excitement and frustration. Excitement that we were meeting a desperate need, but frustration that it would take so long. As many of you know, we halved our original timeline thanks to the Wintek acquisition and grant funding.
Today, we’ve built a total of 2,125 miles of brand new fiber line, including 225 miles since our Annual Meeting last year. That reaches about 65% of our electric service area.
Today, we’re actively building near our Hillsboro and Mountain Road substations, and we’ll soon begin construction in northwestern Tippecanoe County. You can search your address and see our progress at wintek.com/fibermap.
But some of you are still patiently or impatiently waiting. You may be wondering why we built in other areas before yours. The first answer is public grant funding from state and federal programs. Our build decisions were based on where we did and didn’t receive grant funding. And that grant funding has a two-year deadline for us to complete construction.
But secondly, we wanted to ensure that the broadband service would meet your long-term needs. Barring a technological breakthrough that rewrites the laws of physics as we know them, fiber will continue to be the most reliable and cost-effective internet connection. The infrastructure we are building today will benefit our children’s children. It will grant them access to every evolution of the 21st Century economy. Whether it is education, remote work, or simply connecting with family and friends, internet connectivity is an essential service.
Later this year, Wintek will connect our 5,000th residential customer. That’s an impressive accomplishment for a service less than four years old.
But most importantly, our fiber customer satisfaction scores remain high. Our 12-month customer satisfaction score is 4.8 out of a possible 5. Our Net Promoter Score, which is how likely a customer is to recommend our service, hit a perfect 100 earlier this summer. To compare, the average score for internet service providers is about 35.
We expect construction in the electric service area to be complete by the end of 2024. So the question is, what happens next? Unlike the regulated boundaries of electric service, we can build fiber wherever we choose. But our first priority is always that it benefits you. You may have heard about our new partnership with Tippecanoe County. Earlier this year, the Tippecanoe County Commissioners and the Council chose Tipmont Wintek to build our fiber service to about 2,500 rural homes outside our electric service area – about 200 more miles of fiber line.
Today, we’re finalizing the contract with the county and expect to begin the process early next year.
Those of you who are still waiting for Wintek internet may wonder, “Will this delay service to my home as a Tipmont member?” The answer is no. By the time we get materials and finish construction, we will have, for all intents and purposes, finished the build for everyone in our electric service area.
The other question you may ask is will it add cost? That answer is also no. The Tippecanoe County build is fully funded by the commissioner’s grant.
We’re excited for this opportunity on behalf of members like you because it will only help to further stabilize the fiber internet service in the long term.
Beyond that project, we’ll continue to evaluate fiber expansion opportunities as they make sense for our membership. It’s been a challenging few years building this new service. But what makes it worth all the sweat and tears are the compliments from our membership. One, in particular, stands out.
I met a lady earlier this year who lives near Romney. She and her husband are parents to a disabled child that requires full-time care. Since she had a higher income, she continued to work while her husband left his career to stay home and care for the child. But when Wintek internet became available, he was able to get a job working remotely from their home; an opportunity not previously available to them.
As she described to it me, becoming a dual-income family changed everything for them, including the ability to pay their son’s healthcare bills.
Stories like that are why we're building this. I encourage you to share your feedback with us as well. Ultimately, that’s what matters to us – your satisfaction.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.