VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Internet access at home is a luxury afforded to many, but not to all. A local group of leaders now hope to make broadband internet access available throughout Vigo County.
COVID-19 has changed many parts of everyday life, including how some view the need for internet service.
“5 years ago internet was considered kind of a convenience, now through the pandemic we’ve realized how importance,” said Brendan Kearns, Vigo County commissioner.
But for some Vigo County residents, more specifically those who live in rural portions of the county, access to reliable internet is not always available.
“If you look at schools for instance, there are kids that need internet access for their studies. Well in a lot of areas of Vigo County they don’t have internet access regardless of being able to pay for it, the service isn’t there,” Kearns said.
Kearns says county officials are planning for a project to help build the infrastructure that would allow for broadband service to be accessible county-wide.
“What we’re looking at doing is getting the fiber laid, the pipeline installed. As far as who does the service, we’re not looking at that,” Kearns said.
Local fire stations could also have a role in these efforts.
“Fire stations are community gathering points. If we could at minimum get broadband access to the fire stations where we could have a public WiFi on the outside of it, then if we had another situation where schools have to be locked down but we still need connectivity, people who may not have internet access at home could go to the fire stations,” Kearns said.
The commissioner says he estimates the project could cost between $3-$5 million dollars, but at no extra burden of taxpayers.
“It’s technically already there through what we call our EDIT fund, we’re already being taxed for that. Economic Development Income Tax,” Kearns said.
Kearns says he believes the project could not only improve quality of life, but also make Vigo County more attractive.
“If we do the investment now to get that fiber network throughout the county, get those rural areas served, we are a step ahead in so many ways. So when that next technology comes we’ve already moved forward and then maybe we can become an attractive community because we’ve invested in ourselves,” Kearns said.
Kearns says he sees early 2021 as a possible date for a groundbreaking on the project.
He says if progress continues as it is now, he can see the project being completed by the end of next year.