Member Spotlight: Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc. General Manager Mike Harian talks about his company’s fiber deployment in rural southern Indiana and the challenges posed by overbuilding.

Tell us about Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc.
We are a small, rural telecommunications cooperative, serving voice and broadband to about 2500 members in rural southern Indiana.

What’s your biggest or most recent corporate accomplishment?
Two things come to mind. First, we are very happy to be one of six recipients in the first round of Next Level Connection grants, sponsored by the state of Indiana. The grant will allow us to build fiber to an unserved neighboring area. Next, we’re happy to be continuing our own fiber deployment in our ILEC area. We’re in the midst of a large Fiber-to-the-Home deployment that will span our entire service area.

When you think about your company’s future, what, if anything, keeps you up at night?
We have a neighboring rural electric membership cooperative (REMC) that is overbuilding about 50% of our ILEC area. If it’s happening to us, I’m sure it will also happen to other telecom providers. In my opinion, they are the newest (and biggest) threat to our industry.

What unique challenges does your company face while serving rural communities across the state?
Permitting and right-of-way issues are an ongoing challenge for us. We’re working in a county now that has no default right of way along county roads. That means we are forced to obtain a large number of private easements, which significantly slows the process. Indiana does have a “Broadband Ready Community” program available for communities looking to attract new broadband investment. It’s a fantastic program that cuts much of the red tape for providers. It’s frustrating, however, to see how little interest there is in it.

What are two websites that you can’t get through the day without checking?
I check several business news websites daily. I’m a tech freak, so I like sites like CNET, Slashdot, and Engadget. Fortunately, most of my telecom related news (like USTelecom) comes into my email inbox.