Hoosier Net, Accord join forces in Indiana statewide fiber co-op

The Indiana statewide fiber scene is heating up with two recently formed cooperatives, Hoosier Net and Accord Telecommunications Collaborative, joining forces to tackle fiber connectivity.

Hoosier Net, a consortium of 17 ISPs, will leverage its combined assets with Accord to facilitate broadband deployment throughout rural Indiana. Accord, a group of 21 electric and telephone cooperatives, was the second Indiana statewide fiber network announced this month, along with Hoosier Net.

James Tanneberger, Accord’s chairman and CEO of South-Central Indiana REMC, recently hinted to Fierce about a potential partnership between the two co-ops. He said while three of Accord’s members are already part of Hoosier Net, the co-ops offer physically different footprints.

Hoosier Net specializes in fiber backbone capabilities for commercial clients like hospitals, schools and government organizations. Its services include direct internet access scalable between 10 Mbps to 100G, dark fiber, Ethernet transport and more.

Accord’s members collectively own 20,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, serving around 300,000 homes and businesses across Indiana. Hoosier Net and Accord’s partnership marks the first statewide network that’s composed of both telephone companies and electric co-ops.

Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, said in a statement, “I am thrilled to see this crucial investment in Hoosier Net at this moment in time when robust broadband access and middle mile transport has never been more critical to economic prosperity.”

"Accord's investment in Hoosier Net will allow Broadway Broadband to help monetize the commercial side of our network and continue cost-effective network growth," said Rob Schwartz, CEO of Miami-Cass REMC and Broadway Broadband, in a statement.

Accord’s Miami-Cass electric co-op was one of the winners in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. Specifically, the co-op won $4.67 million in 40 Indiana locations.

Hoosier Net and Accord’s partnership comes at a pivotal time for fiber investment. Indiana is one of 32 states that have signed onto the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

Furthermore, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) came out with a BEAD funding notice prioritizing fiber infrastructure projects.

Electric companies and co-ops are a rapidly growing cohort of broadband providers. One reason for that is because the FCC allowed co-ops to bid in the RDOF Phase I auction, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson told Fierce earlier this year.

Prior to that, he said co-ops had spent years lobbying Congress and the FCC for the right to participate in federal funding programs. Electric co-ops made a strong overall showing in the RDOF Phase I auction, having won $1.6 billion.