BOONE COUNTY, Ind. – A major broadband overhaul is underway in Boone County.
The county has been working on broadband expansion for a little more than a year. It has received numerous state and federal grants to help with this effort. Right now the county is focusing on one particular broadband effort.
Boone County’s latest step in its effort to increase internet access across the area is part of the Indiana Connectivity Program, or ICP. The county has set aside nearly $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Local leaders say there is a large need for better connectivity in Boone County, especially in rural areas.
“What we’ve gone through with the pandemic helped dramatically accelerate that,” said Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli. “It really brought up a lot of deficiencies in the system. Kids had to go to hotspots to be able to do their homework and things like that, as well as we’re doing more mental health support through telehealth. Makes it a lot more convenient for many people.”
Santelli said many homes have multiple users and multiple devices.
“That puts a pretty high demand on that bandwidth so that’s what we are trying to get achieved so that people get the service online and now can use Telemedicine, online banking, and all of those other aspects of day-to-day life,” he said.
In order to get the service, people living in the area need to register their home address. Santelli said anyone living in the area can apply.
“If people don’t apply, then they are not going to get the service,” he said. “And their neighbors might, but they might not. So it’s very important that they register in the system, which is really simple.”
According to the county, “more than 11 internet service providers have the opportunity to review these locations and submit bids to the state on the cost of providing service to these registered areas.”
The county said it typically takes about six months for the entire process to be completed. Providers have 60 days to respond and submit bids on locations they would like to extend service to. According to the county, OCRA then evaluates those bids within 30 days and selects the providers whose bids will be most affordable.
Santelli said people living in the area do not have to worry about large towers going up in the area as the expansion takes place.
“Most of these are fiber optic cables going through the same pole structure as your electric lines,” he said. “So broadband has really evolved to a necessity exactly like electricity coming to your home.”
The state of Indiana is also investing $270 million toward expanding broadband access across the state.