What is DREMC doing about internet access?

When DREMC is asked about providing internet service, it seems like a simple question. But behind that question are many complex layers.

The important thing to know right now is that, at last count, there are more than 20 internet service providers (ISPs) working in some part of the DREMC service area. This is both encouraging and troubling. The encouraging part is that the majority of DREMC members have at least one choice, perhaps not optimal, but an option for internet. The troubling part is that the rest of us have no options for internet service, either now or in the near future.

Electric cooperatives were founded on the principle of providing electricity to all who wanted and needed it. People came together and created cooperatives to bring electricity to rural America when for-profit energy companies found it too expensive or unprofitable to do so. Cooperatives were created to serve everyone.

But here again is where internet service differs greatly from the electric cooperative model. Unlike an electric cooperative that serves all members in a region, most ISPs (internet service providers) can target specific areas where they will do business because those areas are profitable. ISPs rely on many years of successful business experience, economic modeling and sophisticated projections to make these decisions. They consider things such as population growth, the distances between residences and what other competition is serving that area already.

Competition in business is a good thing, but it is yet another reason DREMC is not entering the ISP business.

Since 1936, DREMC has excelled at our core mission: providing safe, reliable and affordable electric service to over 77,000 homes and businesses in this area. We will stay focused on our mission.

But, we hear you. We get it. And we want to help bring high-quality internet service to you. The best way we know to do this is by using our existing infrastructure to build part of the fiber backbone in rural America that will help to bring internet to all.

Right now, DREMC is investing $17 million to build an almost 400-mile fiber-optic loop around our service area. By using one of our most important assets – our poles – to carry fiber-optic cable across our region, we are enhancing the efficiency and reliability of your electric service, bearing some of the cost of getting internet to our rural friends and setting the stage for ISPs to come in and offer internet service.

DREMC will partner with ISPs to help you get the internet from our backbone, across our poles, to your home. We are already testing this model in a pilot project with our friends at Ben Lomand Connect, the telecommunications cooperative based in McMinnville. We feel good about our partnership with them, and it is helping us learn about future similar partnerships.

We wish there was a simple, single answer to internet for all. DREMC is committed to bringing you electricity and helping others bring you internet. Our fiber ring is one of the key things we’re doing to help you. We want to be part of the solution in this complicated endeavor.

Our core mission – safe, reliable and affordable electric service – drives every decision we make. We take our work very seriously, and there are over 170 dedicated employees doing their best to make sure you can turn the lights on every day.