Indiana County Looks to Zone Designation for Better Broadband

In Internet-starved portions of Monroe County, officials believe the designation of an Infrastructure Development Zone would create the tax incentives needed to lure in service providers.

by Ernest Rollins, The Herald-Times / May 29, 2019

(TNS) — County officials hope to incentivize broadband development in the northern part of Monroe County, Ind., with the creation of an Infrastructure Development Zone.

“The commissioners are concerned about the lack of broadband outside city limits, especially in the northern part of the county,” county Attorney Jeff Cockerill said.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners will have a public hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss it, which is the first step in creating an Infrastructure Development Zone. The hearing will take place during the commissioners’ meeting in the Nat U. Hill meeting room of the Monroe County Courthouse.

Cockerill said after the hearing, an ordinance needs to be drafted and approved to complete the process.

By creating the zone, he said, the commissioners can provide a personal property tax exemption, similar to a tax abatement, for certain type of infrastructure in an outlined area. This includes broadband, gas or wastewater.

He said the goal is to attract private investment to develop the infrastructure needed to expand broadband into areas where service is inadequate. Doing so, he said, could potentially encourage economic development.

Other counties, such as Brown and Morgan, have already established infrastructure development zones. Unlike what the commissioners are proposing, Cockerill said, their zones cover the entire county.

He said one of the reasons officials didn’t want to do the whole county at once is that they want to have a clear understanding of where the county’s broadband coverage gaps are. The northern portion of the county has already been identified as a problem area, he said.

Erin Predmore, president and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, said it is smart and forward-thinking of the commissioners to seek ways to fill the county’s broadband service gaps. She said one of the barriers to expanding broadband into rural areas is the cost of installing the necessary infrastructure.

Bloomington Economic Development Corp. President Jennifer Pearl said investing in broadband can create positive results, not only for people such as small business owners, health care providers and individuals working from home, but also for children who need access to the Internet for educational purposes.

“All of those things are very important to economic development,” Pearl said.

©2019 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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