FLOYD COUNTY — Floyd County’s $4.1 million broadband connectivity project is on track to be finished by the end of the year, if not the end of the week, according to Mainstream Fiber Networks development manager Zach Stephens.

Mainstream Fiber was awarded $2 million from the state’s Next Level Connections (NLC) Broadband grant in 2019, which was matched with $2.1 million by Floyd County, for the project aiming to serve over 2,000 residents and nearly 400 businesses in the county that have a need for broadband.

Stephens gave the project update to the Floyd County Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting, informing them that everything will soon be connected and ready to get more customers started on the installation process.

“As of right now we have only a few outlying sections of individual census blocks that still need to have their last laterals run to be connected by the end of the year,” Stephen said at the meeting.

Of the approximate 2,084 households in the county that this project is aiming to serve, Stephens said that there are between 360 and 380 residents that are either actively connected to Mainstream Fiber or are in the process.

Because Mainstream Fiber is installing brand new infrastructure, Stephens said that the installation process for customers is a longer process than if they were using pre-existing infrastructure.

Stephens said that this number of residents is getting close to the number of people they wanted to see connected right away, which is around 400 residents or 20% of the 2,084 residents in need.

There will be more efforts to try to get more residents connected, Stephens said, such as through the use of door hangers, direct mailers and pop-up events in neighborhoods.

Mainstream Fiber is working on a plan to expand the connectivity area that they hope to announce first quarter next year to include addresses that are outside of the NLC footprint area.

Commissioner John Schellenberger gave the example of two roads in the county, Tom Evans Road and Banet Road, where one side of the road is within the NLC footprint area and is eligible for broadband, but the other side of the road is not.

“It would just take very little for them to just be able to go that last mile to the residents,” Schellenberger said, “It won’t take much resources on their part.”

The commissioners are working on another broadband initiative to ensure internet access is available to the entire county.

“We’re really happy with the progress, but there’s more to do. There’s more spots out there that don’t have internet,” Schellenberger said, noting that they are working with Mainstream Fiber and other providers to identify those areas.

The county’s director of operations, Don Lopp, said that starting next year they will bring out a broadband plan for the county that aims to address these areas that are outside of the NLC footprint and are not being addressed by state initiatives.

The plan will be informed by what the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Farm Bureau and the state are doing to find areas without broadband, according to Lopp.

Lopp said that the broadband connectivity efforts are planned to be funded with American Rescue Plan funds.

“Broadband is a requirement — it’s a utility,” Schellenberger said, emphasizing its importance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic with needs for E-learning and telemedicine.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we can get Floyd County broadband,” he said.
© 2022 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.