Chamber: Efforts to increase rural broadband

The Vanderburgh County Commissioners awarded a Rural Broadband Request for Proposal (RFP) to Watch Communications. The wireless solution proposed by Watch will focus in the northern portion of Vanderburgh County, which is the first priority area to be addressed. According to the proposal, most residents in Priority Area A who choose to engage with Watch should be served with internet speeds to up to 100 megabits per second download speed and 10 megabits per second upload speed.

A map of proposed broadband expansion to rural areas of Vanderburgh County.
A map of proposed broadband expansion to rural areas of Vanderburgh County.

“Possibly the most important highway that needs continual support is the information highway,” stated Jeff Hatfield, President, Vanderburgh County Commission. “Considering how broadband intersects with almost every single aspect of our daily lives, supporting funding rural broadband was the right thing to do.”

Vanderburgh County Commissioner Ben Shoulders echoed a similar tone, “If the pandemic has brought anything to light, it has been the glaring gap in our county’s broadband infrastructure.”

Next steps include developing a contract with key deliverables, a marketing strategy for new and existing customers, generating service level agreements and coordination with an engineering firm to determine final broadband availability based on network design. The RFP outlined a six-month timeframe for delivering service.

The evaluation committee also recommended seeking out additional technology solutions that will be favorable for Priority Area B and Priority Area C in partnership with the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana. The Economic Development Coalition has been working with regional partners on addressing broadband needs and has made rural broadband access a critical priority.

Previously, the Vanderburgh County Redevelopment Commission approved $1.69 million to support extending broadband in rural portions of the county. The Redevelopment Commission is made up of Wayne Kinney, Councilman James Raben, Councilman Tom Shetler, Jr., Commissioner Shoulders and Commissioner Musgrave.

For Vanderburgh County residents who would like to assist the Commission with collecting data for additional need within the county can do so by taking a survey at https://www.southwestindiana.org/broadband/.

Source: https://www.courierpress.com/story/marketplace/2021/01/10/chamber-effort-increase-rural-broadband/6577530002/