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Getting broadband ready

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Another step has been taken in the exploration of what it would take to provide high speed broadband internet to all of Fayette County.

The county needs to become a “broadband ready community” to be eligible for certain grants that would help pay for what it might take to extend service, according to Dan Parker, executive director of the Economic Development Group of Fayette County. Parker, working with assistance from Purdue University, has formed an “intelligent community task force” to help develop a plan for extending broadband in the county.

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation website, “The Broadband Ready Community certification sends a signal to the telecommunication industry that a community has taken steps to reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure investment.”

The county Board of Commissioners voted to consider spending up to $20,000 for a feasibility study to help qualify.

“The feasibility study would do what?” asked Gary Naylor, president of the commissioners, before voting.

Parker said it would survey local conditions and provide an estimate of how much it might cost to provide service in unserved or underserved areas.

He said the study is important because would-be service providers would want to know costs before agreeing to build a system. 

Three rural electric cooperatives – REMCs – that had been represented at a recent meeting of the intelligent community task force had said they’d need to know what they are facing before deciding whether to get involved here, Parker said. Indiana REMCs have been actively extending internet access within their electric service areas.

“There’s a ton of grant money out there but we can’t get it without this,” Parker said.

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners:

• Appointed Kelly Van Meter as interim director of the 911 emergency communications system. Director David Baker had submitted his resignation as he is taking a state job. Van Meter has 20 years experience with the local system.

• Agreed to hire the engineering firm RQAW to provide a feasibility study of county correctional facilities and the recently purchased former Dollar General building. The firm is one of three that had expressed interest in providing the commissioners with ideas on how best to configure the buildings to relieve overcrowding in the current jail.