Columbus gives tax break to citywide internet provider

Columbus City Council has approved a tax break for an internet provider to bring high speed fiber optics internet to the entire city. That comes after a request for equal treatment by Comcast.

Hoosier Networks, through Meridiam, plans to build a fiber optic network across the city with an investment of about $28 million dollars. The network will be for residential and business customers and will include an emphasis on providing high-speed internet to low-income residents, subsidized by the federal government.

The company asked for and City Council approved a tax break which would see the company pay only 5 percent of the normal property taxes on the investment for 20 years.

A Comcast representative said that the company already serves much of Columbus and said the company plans to increase its network speed in coming years. He also stressed that Comcast offers steep discounts or even free Internet to those with low income. He said that if the tax abatement was approved, the company would like to see similar arrangements extended to other providers.

Councilman Frank Miller pointed out that he only has one option for high-speed internet at his home and some residents have none. A Hoosier Networks representative said that after 7 years of exclusivity, the fiber network would be opened up to more providers.

A company spokesman said that Hoosier Networks does not have any similar networks operating in North America.

Council voted 5-0 to approve the abatement request, with  members Dave Bush and Grace Kestler absent.

The Council also gave its approval to a request from Hoosier Networks to turn the entire city into an economic revitalization area. That allowed the company to seek the tax abatement for its citywide project. Miller pointed out that companies have previously had to ask for individual properties around the city to receive the designation to ask for tax abatements. The decision on the city-wide revitalization area would mean one fewer step for other companies going forward.