SHARPSVILLE – More than 500 homes in northern Tipton County and a sliver of Howard County will now have access to fiber, gigabit-speed internet.
Smithville, a broadband company based in southern Indiana, lit up its recently installed fiber network at the Baird Family Farm, just west of Sharpsville Thursday afternoon, bringing much faster internet to a largely rural area than what residents previously were able to receive.
The Baird’s family is one of 160 homes who have already signed up for the gigabit internet service. More than 580 homes are located in the service area, which covers rural northern Tipton County, mostly west of U.S. 31 to County Road N. 900 West, and as far north as The Moors of Chippendale subdivision.
Residents in the area were, at best, seeing peak speeds of 25mbps down, the company said. Downloading a two-hour high definition movie at that speed would take about 32 minutes to do. With gigabit internet, or 1,000mbps down, that same movie could be downloaded in just 25 seconds.
Not only will the speeds help families stream Netflix faster, but will also allow businesses and farmers in the area to utilize the fiber service.
Smithville plans on marketing its fiber service to those households who haven’t yet signed up. Currently, the company is offering a year-long promotional rate for its gigabit internet of $49.99 a month. The regular rate will be $67 a month with no data cap, the company told the Tribune.
“As a long-time communications provider to the area, we are pleased to launch Summitville’s high speed gigabit internet service in the area,” Darby McCarty, Smithville CEO and chairwoman, said in a speech.
Also happy to see the $2.7 million investment come to fruition were state and local officials, some of whom were on hand for the launch event Thursday, including Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Tipton County Commissioner Dennis Henderson.
The project received $250,000 from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, which has funded tens of millions of similar projects across the state to reduce the number of Hoosiers who are underserved in terms of broadband access and speeds. Smithville funded the rest of the project.
While city residents often have adequate access to high speed broadband, many rural residents in the state do not. As more and more of society begins to rely on the internet as a necessity or work and life, especially during quarantine and working and learning from home amidst a pandemic, rural communities stand to fall further behind in attracting both capital and people if adequate internet infrastructure isn’t in place.
According to a 2018 study done by Purdue University, the state stands to potentially gain $12 billion in economic activity over a 20 year period if all of the nearly 500,000 residents who currently don’t have access to the internet receive access.
Crouch said the current state administration sees access to adequate internet speeds as “essential” in today’s world. She said the state plans on dolling out another $70 million for Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program
“We have to provide equal opportunity to all Hoosiers so that they all can experience growth,” Crouch said. “We will never accomplish that until we are able every Hoosier to the last mile … What we know now through COVID-19 that being connected isn’t a luxury, it’s essential because of e-learning, e-working and telehealth.”
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