Commissioners receive update on high-speed internet installation

Six months after it began, work is now well-underway to expand broadband internet to most areas of rural Bartholomew County.

In his first public update for county officials since September, Hoosier Fiber Networks CEO Dave Brodin said about 50 miles of fiber optic cable have been placed on utility poles and below ground since late September. That translates into 500 rural homes with access to high-speed service that did not have it last year at this time.

“But because of the size of the project, much of the project is slated to happen near the end of this year and early in 2025,” Brodin told the Bartholomew County commissioners Monday.

There will be 3,000 rural homes with the ability to get high-speed internet service by the end of this year, with access available for the final 5,000 residences and businesses in 2025, Brodin said.

Hoosier Fiber Networks is the network utility provider for the investment firm Meridiam Infrastructure North America Corp. The mother company is investing about $33 million into the necessary infrastructure for local countywide high-speed internet. Another business entity, GigabitNow, serves as Hoosier Fiber Networks’ internet provider.

There are at least three different work crews installing fiber optic lines this spring north and west of the Armuth Acres subdivision. From now through 2025, the broadband capacity will begin to spread out from Columbus much like a spider’s web, commissioner Tony London said.

Since last October, the number of new GigabitNow customers has exceeded expectations, Brodin said. But the commissioners have heard several people who expressed disappointment that the new high-speed service is first being made available in Columbus than the county, commissioners Chairman Larry Kleinhenz said.

Brodin said there is a very practical reason why Columbus residents are first in line.

“The primary network location, where everything in the city and county are being served from, is located within Columbus,” the CEO said. “So construction had to (reach a certain level) in the city before it can spread out into the county.”

With that in mind, rural areas closer to Columbus will tend to get service sooner than outlying towns such as Hope to the northeast and Jonesville to the southwest, Brodin said.

Many don’t realize that the city’s contract with Hoosier Fiber Networks is different from the agreement approved with the county, London said.

The county “had to jump through more hoops” because it is investing $4 million from their federal American Rescue Plan allocation to make broadband available to at least 84% of all homes and businesses in the county, London said.

That money is meant to make high-speed internet available where service is considered economically difficult due to the large number of remote homes and the high cost of fiber optics cable.

“There are some roads that there are so few homes at the end that it becomes very cost-prohibitive to build down,” Brodin said. “I won’t say they will never get service, but in this first phase of the project, there are areas that might be excluded for cost reasons.”

For the most part, construction of the broadband infrastructure has been moving along as planned, Brodin said. But that doesn’t mean crews haven’t stumbled across challenges since October.

“Since the inception of the project, we have had a total of 11 customer issues of some kind,” he said. “Two of those are related to yards or property. It’s usually some type of restoration that needs to be redone for the property owner.”

There has also been two utility strikes that Brodin described as preventable. He defined them as contractor mistakes that Hoosier Fiber Networks personnel would have tried to avoid.

But the vast majority of customer issues were utility strikes caused by mismarked utilities, Brodin said. For example, he said the lateral from the road to the home for water service and sometimes sewage are not marked as publicly-owned utilities.

“They are the ones we tend to hit more often,” Brodin said.

To find out when GigabitNow will become available in your neighborhood, go online at