VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) – The Vanderburgh County Commission announced a nearly $40 million broadband internet project, powered by AT&T. This has been in the works since 2018.
“I haven’t been this happy since the GIS project got funded. And that was a long time ago!” said Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave.
The Commission was all smiles as they announced the proposal in rural county areas.
AT&T will be installing an all-fiber solution for county residents to have high speed internet.
“This is a very exciting day. Not just for me but for everyone in rural Vanderburgh County who does not currently have broadband access or who suffers under really poor access…It’s an awesome proposal,” added Musgrave.
The project requires $39.6 million. 25% of that will be covered by public funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, put into place this spring by Congress and President Biden in response to the pandemic, and the remainder is an investment from AT&T.
“This opportunity is transformational to say the least,” said Commissioner Ben Shoulders.
“The last time we did a bid on broadband, we only got one bidder. This time we has I think 3 or 4… I really want to thank AT&T for that bid. That was an extraordinary bid,” added Commissioner Jeff Hatfield.
With the installation of fiber, residents will have up to 2 GBPS and businesses will have up to 5 GBPS. As thrilled as the commissioner were, so were other organizations in the county.
Greg Wathen of the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership said, “we think this is so incredibly important, in particular of what it brings to the rural area of Vanderburgh County and hopefully this will continue to be a model for our entire region so we truly thank you for your support in making the right investment in the community as well.”
Bill Pedtke of the Southern Indiana Builders Association added that “we struggle with getting workers to our area and so do large companies, so do small companies. And so this will be a huge attraction to our county and it also opens up every corner of our county for where people can choose to live and open the market wide up.”
Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron said in a letter to the Commissioners, “I have not only taken a personal interest in this process due to my own inadequate internet network service as a resident of Vanderburgh County, but as president of Indiana Farm Bureau, advocating for our members across the state of Indiana to expand rural broadband to the underserved and unserved for several years. It is my recommendation to further conversations with AT&T that ultimately would move towards an engagement with said provider.”
AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards released a statement this afternoon that said “Our collaboration with Vanderburgh County leaders will help close the digital divide by bringing high-speed Internet to thousands of Hoosier families, farms and businesses. AT&T FIBER is the fastest growing fiber internet in America, and we look forward to serving more customers in Vanderburgh county, particularly in rural areas.”
Commissioner Musgrave said she hopes the contract negotiations will be done in the next few months so the 2-year project can start as soon as possible.