Bringing fiber network to your neighborhood: JCREMC is expanding its fiber internet

By Grady Michael Gaynor

JCFiber Technician Andy Meyer splices fiber optic cable into an existing fiber optic case to take JCFiber internet service to a home in a Bargersville-area subdivision. (Photo provided by JCREMC)

In the 1930s, electricity made its way gradually across our great nation. However, this progress was impeded by the fact many investor-owned utilities believed serving rural areas to be an unprofitable use of time and resources. It was foresight from the leaders of agricultural communities in rural America who knew that electricity was vital to the progress of our country. With federal funding available through the newly created Rural Electrification Administration (REA), cooperatives began springing up across America. An REMC (Rural Electric Membership Cooperative) is a power option where those receiving service are a member-owner of a not-for-profit electric utility. The rates and charges of all Indiana REMCs are regulated at the local level rather than at the state level. Founded in 1935, the Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Cooperative began operations with 1,129 members. Today, the JCREMC serves over 21,000 members with over 1,650 miles of distribution line.

JCFiber Technician Justin Alexander completes the outdoor portion of a residential fiber installation. (Photo provided by JC REMC)

However, the JCREMC has not stopped looking for ways to service their rural community. In 2012, JCFiber was launched as a subsidiary to JCREMC with the installation of 180 miles of fiber optic cable. Fiber-optic internet, commonly called fiber internet, or simply “fiber,” is a broadband connection that can reach high gig speed, with low lag time in zone three. The technology uses fiber-optic cable, which can send data as fast as about 70% the speed of light. JC Fiber has recently announced that it is moving towards its third stage of expanding its broadband internet infrastructure.

John Sturm, president and CEO of JCREMC said, “It’s the best available technology. It’s fast, it’s local, it’s reliable, and you are going to get the same outstanding service you get with our electricity.” Sturm continued, “It really enables people to educate at home, work at home, entertain at home, and do all the things people would like to do with reliable internet while balancing a rural life. Especially as education, and even healthcare, becomes more virtual… Reliable and fast internet has become more and more a necessity.”

Nick Stainbrook, director of fiber operations furthered Sturm’s point by saying,

“Back in 1935 when JCREMC was starting there was this great need for rural electricity. Over the course of time we have built up a great reputation by providing just that. Our company saw our members’ needs now more than ever with the pandemic. Fast internet is lacking in these Johnson County rural areas, and our members need this service. We are proud to be taking the next step on expansion.”

The newest areas of expansion are located just south of State Road 44 north up to County Road 300 N in Bargersville. The expansion zone stretches east to west from roughly N 400 W to the Johnson-Morgan county line. Also included is a section between State Road 37 and State Road 144 on the Johnson/Morgan county line. 

JCFiber is one year into a 5-year expansion that will bring high-speed fiber-optic internet access to 5,000 underserved homes in JCREMC’s electric service territory. (Photo provided by JCREMC)

Stainbrook feels confident in the direction the fiber internet plan has taken,

“We were hearing so many cries for help from our members asking when they would be able to receive our fiber internet. People were telling us that they can not get anything done efficiently from home until our fiber gets out here. This really is a community service project.”

The JCREMC Board of Directors took action in December 2020 to expand JCFiber’s network to reach 5,000 additional members over four years. Currently, approximately 950 residents and 150 businesses receive JCFiber. This expansion plan will cover approximately 940 residents and businesses. 

Sturm concluded, “It’s time to bridge the digital divide separating rural and urban America, and JCFiber is focused on bringing the absolute best technology available to our members in underserved areas. If we don’t provide that high speed connection, nobody else will.”

Sign up will begin in early 2022, and eligible residents and businesses in all newly served areas will be notified when service becomes available. Additional expansion zones will be announced in 2022. Learn more about JCFiber at jcfiber.com.