County moving forward with partner to bring rural broadband

Bartholomew County Commissioners are entering into discussions to bring broadband Internet to most of the rural areas of the county.

Commissioners agreed Monday to a letter of intent with Meridiam Infrastructure North America Corporation to provide countywide broadband. Revisions to the agreement suggested by Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz would require a plan that brings broadband internet to 90 percent of the homes in the county that are not in a municipal area. And the county would not be on the hook for payment of any money until 80 percent of that goal is met.

The county currently has $4 million set aside from COVID-19 relief funds that would be used to bring fast internet to the county, and plans to use that money as a carrot to entice developers such as Meridiam to bring the service.

Commissioner Tony London said the Meridiam plan is to bring fiber optic access to the homes in the county rural areas, an infrastructure that should not degrade over 40-50 years and that would allow hardware upgrades to keep the service fast for years to come. The service would start at 1 gig speed upstream and downstream.

The letter of intent is only a first step toward the eventual contract, commissioners stressed. And the agreement does not rule out any other developers that want to come into the county to bring internet service.