One month after James Tanneberger became CEO of the South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (REMC) in December 2017, the board approved moving forward with a project which would bring high-speed fiber internet to all of its membership who didn’t yet have access to high speed internet. Already a large undertaking, this project has since turned into something better and bigger than Tanneberger could have imagined at that time. “We believe we are doing some things that are outside of the box and will enhance the lives of our members over the next 10-20 years,” Tanneberger said.
ENERGY RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Tanneberger is a third-generation public power provider, having grown up exposed to the career field. His grandfather wired houses in Texas. His father worked for the local electric company in Texas for 37 years. Tanneberger earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Texas A&M University and has worked in the electric powerbusiness ever since. Once he felt he had enough
experience to be a CEO, he started interviewing and discovered South Central Indiana REMC, where they were about to build this large fiber project.
“I felt there was a lot I could do to help with that,” he said. “It’s a big reason I got this job and I have really loved being in Indiana, serving rural Hoosiers. It’s been a great opportunity to help improve things, to improve reliability on the electrical system and bring high speed internet to the local community. I’ve worked for electric power companies in numerous places but have done something slightly different at all of them. This is the job where all of those learned skills culminated into being able to lead a company and improve the lives of our members. I really feel it’s the destination at the end of a long journey and everything I could want to do professionally.”
INTERNET ACCESS FOR ALL
While REMCs were originally created to deliver power to the harder-to-reach rural areas, they gradually grew to provide long-distance telephone services as well. Companies that provide cable or digital Internet service have typically bypassed customers in an REMC service area, concentrating their efforts on more highly populated, urban areas. Now, REMCs are taking the initiative to provide Internet access to customers, an additional service for the betterment of their communities. Construction started on the fiber project in July of 2018, with a plan that approximately 3,754 homes would receive access to this service. Nearly five years later, it’s almost complete. Residents and businesses can sign up for SCI Fiber at sciremc.com.
“We’ve been able to change lives because folks who had almost no internet access at home, now have best-in-class broadband service,” Tanneberger said. “Before, these people might not have even been able to get internet at home or if they did it was very low quality, low
bandwidth at a high cost. We are bringing broadband to them that you would normally have to be at a large urban area to get. It’s allowing people to live in beautiful parts of central and southern Indiana and be able to telecommunication, work from home, where there’s no way they could have done that four to five years ago.