RICHMOND, Ind. –Charter Communications received a warm welcome Wednesday from Wayne County commissioners.
A four-person Charter delegation, led by government affairs manager Elizabeth James, explained the company’s plans to expand its fiber optic network that makes 1 gigabit broadband service available to more than 3,000 Wayne County homes and business addresses. Commissioner Ken Paust turned up the heat by jokingly asking if it would all be over by the end of the year.
That won’t happen, but Charter plans to complete its projects in Indiana by the end of 2025. That’s two years earlier than required by the Federal Communications Commission, which is providing much of the funding for the project.
“This is great news,” said Forward Wayne County program manager Acacia St. John, who is also involved with the Wayne County Broadband Coalition and attended Wednesday’s presentation.
Learn more about installation plans:Charter Communications plans broadband installation in Wayne County
Areas affected by network expansion
The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund reverse auction awarded Charter more than $59 million to expand its fiber optic network into census blocks in 44 Indiana counties. This includes $3.7 million for southern and northern parts of Wayne County that lack reliable broadband service. Charter also plans to invest $236 million in the Indiana projects that will install approximately 4,700 miles of fiber network affecting approximately 54,000 addresses.
The local project targets 3,180 buildings in Wayne County, but James said that’s a conservative estimate that is likely to increase significantly as installation progresses. She explained that fiber optics flow, rather than jump, from place to place. The census blocks allocated to the Charter are not all contiguous, so to connect some of these areas, lines will be installed through the census blocks. The Charter was not awarded during the auction process.
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Additionally, the company applied for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Next Level Connections Broadband Grants program. Charter requested a grant of $1,528,915 with a counterpart of $391,500 for the installation of fiber accessible to 261 addresses. Grants are still due this month and OCRA expects them to be completed in two years.
St. John and Commissioner Jeff Plasterer previously attended Charter’s presentation to Union County officials. The company made further progress in Union County by extending its fiber optic lines from Ohio to Indiana.
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Find internet access for residents
The Wayne County Broadband Coalition formed with the goal of finding broadband solutions throughout Wayne County. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore insufficient internet capabilities as residents worked from home and engaged in virtual learning. Charter’s facilities complement this work.
“It really moves things forward in the fact that our residents will have access,” St. John said. “The areas they’re building under this RDOF, as well as what they plan to do if they get higher tier connections, are underserved or unserved areas, so that aligns very well with what we do.”
Charter will not seek any county funding. He only asks for support and cooperation, especially when it comes to right-of-way issues and permits. FCC funding and OCRA grants focus on rural areas that lack population to attract provider investment without government incentives.
“Good, because they’re low-density, and that’s kind of how vendors work,” St. John said. “So by doing a reverse auction, they’re bidding, it’s happening, and they’re not asking the county for additional funds. You can’t beat that.”
Internet services and installation plan
Charter’s Spectrum product would offer broadband internet, TV, voice and mobile phone 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 help low-income households, schools, and students and seniors afford broadband connections.
Charter’s map shows settlements progressing north and south of Richmond. The North Zone Network extends from Greenville, Ohio, and the South Network extends from Oxford, Ohio to College Corner, Ohio. Charter’s Wayne County facility plan is divided into more than a dozen phases, which will be activated as they are completed.
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The process begins with a walk through the proposed route of each phase, then continues with design and construction. The fiber will most often be attached to utility poles.
The tour leg has been completed for two phases in the Fountain City area and two phases in the Hagerstown area. The earliest construction start date among the four phases is December 1, with the earliest activation date April 10, 2023. The four phases total 107 fiber miles and 799 buildings.
To learn more about Charter’s Spectrum expansion plans, visit www.spectrumruralexpansion.com.
Residents of Wayne County are encouraged to enroll in OCRA’s Indiana Connectivity Program and regularly provide data for the Indiana Farm Bureau Speed Test.
Indiana’s Connectivity Program, at www.in.gov/ocra/broadband/icp/, connects those without broadband access to service providers. This also contributes to the cost of extending the service to these individuals and businesses.
The speed test at www.infarmbureau.org/resources/broadband-speed-test provides broadband service level data.
Both enable accurate mapping of broadband service regardless of provider claims.