Intercounty announces purchase of TRAIN

Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association announced Monday afternoon it is purchasing a major internet provider in Texas County.

Texas County Rural Area Information Network –– more commonly known as TRAIN –– will become an Intercounty subsidiary as the organization says it plans to eventually offer broadband service within the 10 counties where the cooperative currently provides electric service. The two sides are working out the details of the agreement.

Intercounty said the focus of 2018 will be “integration, planning and strengthening while continuing to serve TRAIN’s existing customers and establishing future operating procedures.” Both organizations said there won’t be rate changes for current TRAIN customers, although additional service options and pricing structures may be available in the future.

“IECA’s interest in TRAIN is not revenue driven, but is focused on the expansion of high speed internet services to our rural communities,” Intercounty said via a press release. “Current TRAIN employees will be joining the IECA team; this both strengthens the cooperative and ensures familiar service to current customers during the transition.”

TRAIN first brought dial-up Internet services to Texas County in 1997 through the Missouri Express program aimed at targeting areas that didn’t have online access. Its current employees will join Intercounty.

TRAIN’s roots came with the availability of state funds to launch service at a time when the only access was via a toll call, generally to America Online. The original parties to the project where cities, school districts and other public bodies — 26 in all — within Texas County. Subscribers had access to a local number that eliminated the need for a long-distance charge. Public work stations also became available at library branches in the county.

“IECA has the infrastructure, workforce and civil resources to greatly improve and expand services currently being offered by TRAIN, which is why the board of directors has agreed to pass the torch to IECA,” TRAIN officials said in a press release.

Intercounty says no price increases for current TRAIN customers; employees of the Internet company will join Intercounty.

“Both organizations have the same goal in mind — to improve existing service and make it available to many more people who are in need of affordable, high-speed internet services.”

The TRAIN board of directors said they will oversee the proceeds of the sale, with the intent to keep the funds in Texas County through scholarships or other non-profit efforts.

Intercounty said it will begin focusing on underserved areas beyond 2018. Intercounty, which first energized its lines in 1940, was created to bring electrical service to rural south-central Missouri. Now, many electrical cooperatives are studying bringing broadband. Some already have.

“We appreciate your support and your patience as we work to serve areas that again may not be of interest to big, for-profit companies,” Intercounty said. “We may be rural, but we recognize the need for high speed internet is universal. Hang in there, we’re on our way.”

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