Indiana Pens Deal for Private-Sector Management of State's Communications Infrastructure

The deal with Agile Networks will help Indiana to gain full use of its telecommunications infrastructure.

by Edd Pritchard, The Repository, Canton, Ohio / September 8, 2016
In addition to hundreds of towers and non-traditional vertical structures, the system also includes fiber optic cables and streamlined right-of-way access. Flickr/Kainet

(TNS) -- Agile Networks has entered into a licensing agreement that could see it managing, operating and marketing Indiana's communication's infrastructure.

The deal was announced by the company and state officials on Tuesday. It still must be approved by the Indiana State Budget Committee.

Agile Networks benefits by gaining access to the state's cellular telephone and radio towers in a 25-year deal, which can be extended. Indiana benefits because Agile plans to help extend broadband service to the state's rural areas, and because Agile agreed to pay $50 million for rights to manage the network. The state wants to use the money to pay for several bicentennial projects it is developing.

The plan is similar to one Agile has with Ohio to manage its cellular and radio towers around the state. Agile has used the towers to build a wireless system — using microwave, fiber and satellite communications — that extends broadband around the state.

The deal will help Indiana to gain full use of its telecommunications infrastructure, officials with the state and Agile said. The system includes hundreds of towers and non-traditional vertical structures, fiber optic cables and streamlined right-of-way access.

Indiana officials are confident that Agile can build a system to provide wireless carriers and providers the ability to access new urban and rural markets. Increasing broadband availability to under-served areas will help economic development, said Micah Vincent, director of Indiana's office of management and budget.

"With a qualified firm driving the management, operation and marketing of the state's communication infrastructure, Indiana stands to gain significantly upfront and in the long term for our rural communities and economic development efforts," Dan Huge, director of the Indiana Finance Authority, said in a news release announcing the agreement.

The deal gives Agile access to Indiana's telecommunications system for 25 years, with an opportunity to renew for another 25 years. Agile is expected to share $36 million in anticipated revenue with the state during the first 25 years. It will cost Agile $10 million to renew the agreement, and it's expected the state would net $164 million during the second renewal period.

Agile expects there will be multiple phases as the company develops Indiana's network. The initial phase — expected to take about one year — will involve tying together the network. Once everything is coordinated, the company expects to start extending broadband service into new areas, a spokesman said. The goal is to make it more cost effective for a provider to operate in areas that currently are under served.

The company expects it could take until late October before the State Budget Committee approves the agreement.

Indiana has been privatizing much of its publicly owned operations, and this is an extension of that process, according to a news release issued by Gov. Mike Pence's office. "This agreement, if approved, will put unused assets into full play, enhance Indiana's communications capabilities throughout the state and fund the state's bicentennial projects," said Pence, who is the Republican Party's candidate for vice president, sharing the ticket with presidential nominee Donald Trump.

©2016 The Repository, Canton, Ohio. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.