Local company selected to expand internet to rural Howard Co – Kokomo Tribune

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Updated: January 10, 2022 @ 2:01 pm
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This map shows where BerryComm will build the 53-mile fiberoptic ring throughout Howard County.
This map shows where BerryComm plans to expand fiber off the 53-mile fiber ring to create dense fiber networks throughout the county.

This map shows where BerryComm will build the 53-mile fiberoptic ring throughout Howard County.
This map shows where BerryComm plans to expand fiber off the 53-mile fiber ring to create dense fiber networks throughout the county.
A local internet provider has been awarded $2 million by the county to help fund a major expansion of high-speed internet to rural parts of the county.
Howard County commissioners Wednesday selected BerryComm to complete the project that will bring 100 gigs of bandwidth to large swaths of the county and, specifically, to underserved areas.
The company said the first phase of the project will be to build a nearly 53-mile redundant fiberoptic ring throughout the county that passes by all the county’s school districts. That phase will take around two years to complete.
The second phase of the project will build out from the ring to create dense fiber networks throughout the county that will connect to homes.
The network will eventually give 1-gig speeds to residents and beyond-1-gig speeds to schools, health care facilities and businesses that require dedicated bandwidth.
The company said its plan will serve as a long-term solution to address the broadband issues that have impacted rural residents in Howard County. Local employees will build the project.
Commissioner Paul Wyman said they received six proposals to expand internet in the county after sending out a Return-for-Proposal (RFP) in June promising up to $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding to the selected company.
“They had some really incredible ideas and some really incredible initiatives and ways to accomplish doing this,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting.
Wyman said commissioners eventually narrowed it down to two potential candidates and decided to go with BerryComm in part because it’s a local, Kokomo-based provider.
“Your company has a stellar reputation, and that speaks volumes for the work that you do,” he said. “ … We love the fact that we have chosen a local company to handle this broadband project.”
The first phase of the project will cost around $3 million. Wyman said they could use $1 million in READI grant money to cover the remaining cost if the project is selected in March.
The project in total will cost around $15 million. Wyman said BerryComm will invest $5 million into the buildout. As the company builds the fiber ring, it will also work with county grant writers to pursue state and federal money to finish the project.
Company owner James Berry told commissioners he was honored that the county selected BerryComm for the project. He said he founded the company in 2015 with the purpose of serving rural and underserved communities.
“We’re looking forward to the build and all the people’s lives it will change,” Berry said.
The need for reliable and fast broadband internet in rural parts of Indiana and the county has been prevalent for years, but that need became more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns forced some residents to complete their schooling or jobs online in their own homes.
Currently, only 53% of county residents have access to fiberoptic internet, according to broadbandnow.com.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.
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