RIPLEY • Three months after laying the first fiber cables, Tippah Electric Power Association is just days from connecting its first broadband customer.  General Manager Tim Smith said that connection should come within the next week or two.

The electric company has formed the subsidiary, TEPAconnect, LLC, to provide the high-speed internet. The first TEPAconnect customers will be in areas of Benton County that lack internet service.

Earlier this year, Tippah Electric received grants from the MS Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 grant program. The grants require electric cooperatives to service the most isolated and the disconnected regions, as defined by the FCC, first.

Two express routes to Benton County were constructed first since a larger number of TEPA customers in those areas lack access to the internet.

“The work is being done in phases and will begin with the least served areas for internet service. Areas in Benton County, down MS 370 from Falkner, will be hooked up first. “

Smith says Benton County residents along MS 4 West can expect broadband connections to begin in early December. Some households down County Road 301 (New Salem Road) from Falkner are also in the first phases of connection.

Smith says that the two biggest questions he gets about the internet service are, “how much does it cost and when can I get it?”

He is very cautious in giving exact time frames for connection.

“We don’t feel comfortable telling people a date on when they will get it,” continued Smith. “There could be unforeseen delays such as weather, materials, and shutdowns at the office or with the contractors.”

Smith assures that TEPAconnect will reach all of TEPA’s 33,000 customers and asked that customers be patient during the process.

“We will put fiber on all Tippah Electic owned poles,” said Smith. “Running the fiber to the entire system will take around 24 months and installing the service will take longer.”

Smith encourages anyone who wants access to the broadband internet to go ahead and preregister for the service.

“We’ve made it very easy. Preregister online at tippahepa.com, click on ‘TEPAconnect’ at the top of the page, then chose ‘pre-registration’ from the menu.”  

Customers can also preregister at the TEPAconnect office at 304B Jefferson Street, behind Dodge Store and across from The Peoples Bank.

“Filling out the preregistration form does not commit you to the TEPAconnect service. It just lets us know that there is an interest in your area.”

As far as pricing goes, TEPAconnect has three packages for residential customers. The standard package will provide speeds of 250/250 Mbps and will cost $59.95 a month, the premium package’s speeds are 500/500 Mbps and will cost $69.95, and the ultra package will have speeds of 1000/1000 Mbps for $99.95. There are no sign-up fees or contracts to sign, and routers will be provided free of charge.

“People don’t believe we can provide the speeds we say we can,” continued Smith. “We have done a couple of beta-site tests, and we are getting the speeds we should.”

Smith believes once people start getting hooked up to the broadband, and word gets out about the service’s speed and reliability, they will have a significant increase in customer registrations.

For more information about TEPAconnect, visit www.tippahepa.com/tepaconnect.php or call 662-587-9055.

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