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Indiana City Council Backs $2.8M Broadband Investment

A committee of the Vigo County, Ind., Council Wednesday voted to recommend a $2.84 million request to expand broadband service in the area, with funding from the county's Economic Development Income Tax fund.

by Howard Greninger, The Tribune-Star / November 20, 2020
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(TNS) — A committee of the Vigo County, Ind., Council Wednesday voted to recommend a $2.84 million request to expand broadband service in Vigo County.

The funding would come from the county's Economic Development Income Tax fund.

Terre Haute-based technology firm Joink Inc. will install fiber optic cable into township fire houses, community centers and parks. When those facilities are not open, a Wi-Fi transmitter can provide an umbrella signal into nearby parking lots for 24/7 access.

Councilman  Chris Switzer  moved to bring the funding request to the full council.

"In good faith to Indiana Economic Development Corporation, this would be a good move. In good faith to entrepreneurs throughout the county, this would be a smart move," Switzer told the committee in a meeting streamed on YouTube.

"In good faith to our students and teachers, this is a smart move," he said. "We have entrepreneurs in New Goshen, PrairietonPrairie Creek" who can develop or expand business near their homes.

Switzer said many families of school children do not have access to broadband service, adding the COVID-19 pandemic may not allow students to return to schools yet this school year.

"This is just a small tidbit to make it easier to them....or we have something like this happen in the future," he said. "This shows good faith to state leaders that we working together as a community."

Joink's goal is to reach 191 community locations in its service area. There are 90 access points on 30 Vigo County school properties. Another 84 access points would be located in Vigo County, of which about 44 are in the county and 40 locations in the city limits of Terre Haute.

Under the proposal, Vigo County would appropriate funds to the Vigo County School Corporation, which would take the lead position of paying Joink for the expansion. It would use county funds, as well school corporation funds and funding from the city of Terre Haute and a state grant.

The cost breakdown is $2,844,943 million for the county; $544,000 for the city of Terre Haute; $1.4 million from the school corporation; and $2 million from a state Next Level Connects grant to Joink. That grant was made to service 200 homes across Vigo CountyVermillion and Parke counties.

Josh Zuerner , CEO and President of Joink, said of the nine projects funded by the state grant to Joink, three projects — at a cost of $737,000 — are in Vigo County.

Joink would connect small- to medium-sized businesses along routes where the fiber optic cable in installed, with long-range plans of eventually providing additional service to single-family homes in county subdivisions or in apartment complexes.

"We are not initially building service into a single-family service home under these extensions. I expect us to at some point in the future, but that is not in the current scope," Zuerner said.

"I don't want us to fall into the trap of believing that the only way to service a single-family home is extend fiber into that single-family home. That is the absolute most expensive way possible to service a home," he said.

"Joink has tremendous experience in utilizing fixed wireless, where we put transmitters on top of grain bins and poles" and other structures to distribute high speed internet. "It is conceivable that along routes we can install additional wireless transmitters that will send a wireless signal into people's homes, but that isn't a possibility until I have fiber near those potential transmitter locations, which this would provide.

"You have my commitment from me that Joink will work to find every way possible to get every bit of bang out of your buck on this investment," Zuerner said.

In other business, the committee also voted to approve an appropriation of $3,101,767 into a special general fund line item for state reimbursement through the CARES Act, which covers expenses connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding requests next go before the full Vigo County Council, to be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8.

(c)2020 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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