City gives progress update on fiber optic network installation

COLUMBUS, Ind. —  More than 450 homes in Columbus now have the ability to connect to high-speed internet service with a new provider, and it’s expected that another 1,200 will be added to that number by the end of the summer.

City officials and representatives from Hoosier Fiber Networks and GigabitNow announced the news Wednesday in a press conference at Columbus City Hall. According to Mayor Jim Lienhoop, the first batch of homes are located in the “big block” area of downtown, which runs from city hall to 25th Street and Washington Street to Central Avenue.

“If you haven’t noticed, there are some gophers in Columbus that are putting orange fiber optic cable casing, if that’s the way you say it, throughout our community in anticipation of installing a current fiber optic solution for us,” he said.

He added that the project is expected to complete at the end of 2024.

Columbus residents can sign up for service at gigabitnow.com/Columbus and can also use the site to access a map that shows when service is expected to be available at their address. According to Dave Brodin, CEO of Hoosier Fiber Networks, the map will be updated in the coming weeks due to some scheduling changes.

“This is a construction project, and some is above ground, some is underground,” he said. “There’s often lots of surprises along the way, so it’s always possible that schedules have to change. So even if I were to say, these are the neighborhoods or areas that are at the end of the project, it’s possible those move up further in the project for various reasons. So really, the best indication of when an area’s going to be complete is when you start seeing shovels in the ground and holes being dug, then you know that that area is underway.”

Meridiam Infrastructure North America Corp. has agreed to create a fiber network that spans Columbus, Bartholomew County, Bloomington and Shelbyville. Hoosier Fiber Networks is the fiber network utility provider for this system, and GigabitNow, which is a division of IsoFusion, will be the initial internet service provider.

In the summer of 2022, Columbus City Council approved a tax abatement for Hoosier Networks LLC that will save the company 95% on personal property taxes every year for 20 years on $28 million in new equipment for the fiber-to-premise project. The city will also use some of Columbus’ American Rescue Plan funds to help cover the cost of connection for low-income residents.

“Columbus’ digital access program will bring the power of fiber internet connectivity to Columbus residents regardless of income level,” said Dion Newton, Digital Equity Manager, Hoosier Fiber Networks. “In addition to laying fiber in communities throughout Columbus, the City and Hoosier Fiber Networks will connect qualifying low-income residents to service and equipment subsidies and with digital literacy programs to facilitate online work and job searches, education and health care.”

For the complete story and more photos, see  Friday’s Republic.


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