Bartholomew County accepts proposal for high-speed rural internet

Bartholomew County officials believe they have found a partner to bring broadband internet to rural parts of the county.

Bartholomew County Commissioners yesterday accepted a proposal from Meridiam Infrastructure North American Corp. to bring the gig-speed fiber optic service to almost 12,000 homes in unincorporated, unserved and underserved parts of the county. That was about 3,000 more homes than the second-place proposal from AT&T

The county is providing a $4 million carrot for the project, but the company itself plans to invest more than $30 million dollars. Commissioner Tony London said that while Meridiam will own and maintain the network, the actual work will be done by a Brown County based company called Mainstream Fiber, which is owned by Columbus residents. That company operates in 10 counties in Indiana.

In December, the county commissioners sought proposals from companies that were willing to provide rural broadband to the county, with a $4 million incentive set aside from federal COVID-19 relief funds. Two companies submitted proposals, AT&T and Meridiam.

The next steps will be to finalize the contract and to get started on the work. Commissioners want to see the project get started in three months, but the buildout could still take up to 30 months to complete under the contract, they caution.