Tipmont REMC is sending a clear signal: It’s not just in the electricity business.

“Of course, electricity is vital to our security, comfort, and convenience,” CEO Ron Holcomb says. “But is that where we stop? Is that enough?”

Tipmont, based in Lafayette, Indiana, recently purchased Wintek Corp., a local broadband provider, and launched a $100 million fiber-to-the-home buildout for its 23,000 members.

Holcomb sees broadband as far more than a local issue.

“The gap in rural America is about our ability to compete,” he says. “That’s impacted by inadequate infrastructure.”

In addition to acquiring Wintek, the co-op is partnering with Mulberry Telecommunications, a local telephone cooperative, to deliver video and voice services.

Holcomb sees electric co-ops collectively as “the biggest asset in rural America.”

“We have the trust of the community. We are locally controlled. That makes us the most powerful entity in rural America.

“The question is, what do we do with that?”