Thumb Electric Acquires Internet Company As Part Of Broadband Expansion



Thumb Electric Company’s plan to become an Internet Service Provider is well advanced with the acquisition of an Internet Company.

TEC struck a deal this weekend to buy Air Advantage, a Frankenmuth-based Thumb Area Internet service provider.

The acquisition will complement TEC’s plans to expand and improve Internet services across Thumb.

“With the deal reached, the next step awaits Federal Communications Commission approval, which could take a few months,” noted Scott Zimmer, CEO of Air Advantage.

“We are selling because the time is right. There is a lot of money from the Rural Development Opportunities Fund going in the thumb. We figured the best way to use the funds was to join one of the other winners, and TEC made the best sense to join us.

Zimmer said selling the business he started 19 years ago would give him more time to pursue other business interests, spend time with his family and enjoy life.

The acquisition complements TEC’s plans to expand and improve Internet services throughout Thumb.

TEC plans to build and provide fiber-to-the-home Internet service to its electrical service members, surrounding communities, as well as continue to provide fixed wireless service and upgrade transmission towers.

“It’s an exciting time for TEC and the ThumbSaid TEC General Manager Dallas Braun. “The acquisition of shares is a great opportunity for TEC, Air Advantage and the local communities. We are excited to have an experienced and professional Air Advantage workforce to be part of the TEC team as we work to bridge the digital divide with TEC Fiber for our members and the surrounding community.

Zimmer has confirmed that all 30 employees at his company will work for TEC in order to provide the same service.

“I will be the only one to lose my job because of this,” he said.

The acquisition of Frankenmuth is financially beneficial for the power company, which was established 84 years ago to provide electricity to rural areas.

“By using Air Advantage’s current fiber optic network, TEC will reduce the overall cost of building fiber infrastructure by more than $ 5 million,” Braun explained.

TEC secured $ 22.5 million in the Rural Development Opportunities Fund auction to bring high-speed fiber-optic internet to the region.

In 2021, TEC’s board of directors approved a five-year, $ 80 million, fiber-to-the-home construction project.

The two companies have been working together since 2004, when TEC’s main office, warehouses, data collection sites and substations were able to obtain high-speed internet service with the help of Air Advantage.

As TEC developed plans to roll out fiber-optic Internet service and accelerate the construction schedule, discussions between the two companies began on how best to use Air Advantage’s existing infrastructure. This has led to acquisition talks between the two companies, according to Braun.

“The plans are to continue to support and upgrade the current fixed wireless infrastructure in areas where TEC fiber will not be deployed in the near future,” said Braun. “This acquisition will allow TEC to reduce the completed eight-year infrastructure project from three years to a five-year project plan.

“If additional opportunities arise, it is likely that the five-year plan can also be reduced.”

Air Advantage has laid the groundwork for Internet service as it has over 600 miles of fiber optic network in Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Bay and Saginaw counties. Fiber powers more than 140 towers providing fixed wireless broadband service throughout Thumb and surrounding areas.

The 6,000 fixed wireless and fiber customers acquired from Air Advantage will launch TEC fiber and bring an experienced team to support existing and new Internet infrastructure.

“Air Advantage has worked hard over the past 19 years to bring better broadband to the thumb, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Zimmer said. “This transition will bring faster internet speeds, and RDOF funds will help speed up construction in many areas of the thumb. We know TEC has a passion to serve the residents of the Thumb area and understands the unique challenges we face. faced in a rural market.

“It was important for us to find a partner who understood these needs. We firmly believe that TEC is the right group to continue what we have started.

The first phase of the project is expected to begin in Tuscola County later this fall.



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