RICHMOND, Ind. — Charter Communications received a warm welcome Wednesday from Wayne County’s commissioners.
A four-person Charter delegation, led by Elizabeth James, a manager in government affairs, explained the company’s plans to extend its fiber network that makes 1 gigabit broadband service accessible to more than 3,000 Wayne County home and business addresses. Commissioner Ken Paust turned up the heat by jokingly asking if that would all be completed by year’s end.
That won’t happen, but Charter expects to finish its Indiana projects by the end of 2025. That’s two years earlier than required by the Federal Communications Commission, which provides much of the project funding.
“This is good news,” said Acacia St. John, the program manager with Forward Wayne County who is also involved with the Wayne County Broadband Coalition and attended Wednesday’s presentation.
More on installation plans:Charter Communications plans Wayne County broadband installation
Areas to be impacted by network expansion
The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund reverse auction awarded Charter more than $59 million to expand its fiber network into census blocks in 44 Indiana counties. That includes $3.7 million for the Wayne County’s southern and northern portions that lack reliable broadband service. Charter also expects to invest $236 million into the Indiana projects that will install about 4,700 miles of fiber network impacting about 54,000 addresses.
The local project targets 3,180 Wayne County buildings, but James said that’s a conservative estimate likely to increase significantly as installation occurs. She explained that fiber optics flow, rather than hop, from place to place. The census blocks awarded Charter are not all contiguous, so to connect some of those areas, lines will be installed across census blocks Charter was not awarded during the auctioning process.
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In addition, the company has applied for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Next Level Connections Broadband Grants program. Charter applied for a $1,528,915 grant with a $391,500 Charter match for fiber installation accessible to 261 addresses. Grant awards are expected still this month, and OCRA expects completion in two years.
St. John and Commissioner Jeff Plasterer previously attended Charter’s presentation to Union County officials. The company has progressed further in Union County as it extends its fiber optic lines from Ohio into Indiana.
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Finding internet access for residents
The Wayne County Broadband Coalition formed in an attempt to find broadband solutions throughout Wayne County. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the insufficient internet capabilities to the forefront as residents worked from home and participated in virtual learning. Charter’s installations complement that work.
“It really does advance it in the fact that our residents will have access,” St. John said. “The areas that they are building out under this RDOF and then also what they plan to do if they’re awarded Next Level Connections are underserved or unserved areas, so it fits really nicely with what we’re doing.”
Charter will not request any county funding. It only asks for support and cooperation, especially with right-of-way issues and permitting. The FCC funding and the OCRA grants focus on rural areas that lack the population to attract provider investment without government incentives.
“Right, because they’re low density, and that’s kind of how providers operate,” St. John said. “So by doing a reverse auction, they bid it out, it’s happening and they’re not asking the county for additional funds. You can’t beat that.”
Internet services and installation map
Charter’s Spectrum product would offer broadband internet, television, voice and mobile services. The technology will provide 1,000 Mbps down and 500 Mbps up with no modem fees, contracts or data caps. The company has programs to assist households, schools and low-income students and seniors afford the broadband connections.
Charter’s map shows installations progressing north and south of Richmond. The network for the northern area extends from Greenville, Ohio, and the southern network extends from Oxford, Ohio, through College Corner, Ohio. Charter’s Wayne County installation plan divides into more than a dozen phases, which will be activated as they’re completed.
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The process begins with a walk through each phase’s proposed route, then continues with design and construction. The fiber will most often be attached to utility poles.
The walk-through stage has been completed for two Fountain City-area phases and two Hagerstown-area phases. The earliest start date for construction among the four phases is Dec. 1, with the earliest activation date April 10, 2023. The four phases total 107 miles of fiber and 799 buildings.
Learn more about Charter’s Spectrum expansion projects at www.spectrumruralexpansion.com.
Wayne County residents are urged to register for OCRA’s Indiana Connectivity Program and to regularly provide data for the Indiana Farm Bureau Speed Test.
The Indiana Connectivity Program, at www.in.gov/ocra/broadband/icp/, matches those without broadband access to service providers. It also assists with the cost of extending service to those individuals and businesses.
The speed test at www.infarmbureau.org/resources/broadband-speed-test provides data about the level of broadband service.
Both enable accurate mapping of broadband service independent of provider claims.