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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Tri-County Electric joined with county and state officials last Friday in formally announcing its plans to build a fiber broadband network throughout Trousdale County.

“We think it’s going to be a difference maker for the quality of life of the people in this community,” said Paul Thompson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Tri-County. “We know, from an economic development standpoint and educational levels, that it’s key to have access to broadband.”

RELATED LINK: NCTC holds groundbreaking for broadband service

Thompson said Tri-County would also offer Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service as part of its broadband service, allowing for what he called “unlimited, nationwide long distance.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Tri-County officials were joined by members of state and local government for a press conference Friday to announce the company’s plans to provide broadband Internet service to Trousdale County. Pictured from left are: front row, State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, Tri-County Executive VP Paul Thompson, State Sen. Ferrell Haile, County Mayor Carroll Carman, Jason Short, Tammy Dixon. Back row, Clint Satterfield, Glenn Hale, District Attorney Tommy Thompson, Lewis Beasley, Jim Beecham, Jozef Kaslikowski.

“We’re going from having nothing to having the best. Nashville and Chattanooga talk about being a gig(abit) city. Hartsville/Trousdale will be a gig county.”

Tri-County’s Board of Directors, led by District Attorney Tommy Thompson, approved plans last week to move forward with the pilot program.

“Not having broadband in today’s world is similar to how not having electricity was in the 1930s and we have searched for ways to bring this needed service to Trousdale County,” Tommy Thompson said in a press statement.

County Mayor Carroll Carman expressed his appreciation and the county’s support for Tri-County’s efforts. The County Commission last week approved a resolution formalizing its support as well.

Carman said the county’s support would be of a moral perspective and not a financial one. Previous efforts to offer financial backing were blocked by the state comptroller’s office.

“It’s friendly cooperation,” Carman said. “I will be speaking to citizens. We’re going to ask the community to support this. They are doing this for our county.”

Tri-County is still finalizing its business model and plans for wiring the county, which Paul Thompson said would be done in increments of roughly 60 miles over each of the next three years. Demand for broadband will also help determine which areas receive higher priority for service.

“We intend to go to the west of town first. We’ll do about a third (of the county) each year,” Paul Thompson said.

Courtesy of Tri-County
This map shows the areas of Trousdale County that will eventually be served by Tri-County’s broadband network.

The first steps involve mapping the system to see what will be needed. Construction could begin as soon as November, according to Tri-County. A necessary application for a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) license will soon be filed with the Public Utility Commission.

“We could potentially have some people getting service by the end of the year,” Paul Thompson said.

Tri-County also is working to keep its coverage at a competitive pricing level, as AT&T and Comcast service is available in the downtown Hartsville area.

“Our intent is for our base package to offer superior speeds,” said Paul Thompson. “Most people around here get 6(Mbps download)/1(upload), some get 25/3. What we’re going to come in with is 50/50in our base package.

“You can stream video and still get on your iPad!”

Most of Trousdale County will be covered by Tri-County’s plan with only a few exceptions. The  southern tip of the county that Falls under Middle Tennessee Electric will also not be served. NCTC has received a federal grant to bring service to an underserved area in the northern part of Trousdale County and a groundbreaking was scheduled for May 31.

The state legislature passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act earlier this year, which opens the door for rural electric cooperatives to sell Internet service. Last week, Tri-County hosted representatives from 14 other electric co-ops in Tennessee for discussions on the best ways to move forward in providing service.

Paul Thompson thanked State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and Sen. Ferrell Haile, both of who were in attendance, for “sticking with us from the very beginning, and going along with us when AT&T pushed back on us.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.