Fayette County and the Economic Development Group of Fayette County will split the $20,000 cost of finding out how to extend internet service to parts of the county that don’t have it.

A company called Pulse Broadband will study local service issues and how much it might cost to extend it, Dan Parkrer, EDG’s executive director, told the Fayette County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. The study is needed before the county can apply for state grants to help with extending service.

At $40,000 a mile, extending service “is a huge number but we don’t know how much we need to fund,” Parker said.

Under Parker’s leadership, the EDG has been working with a committee of internet service providers and others for well over a year to determine what resources are available. Most of the county outside of Connersville has poor to nonexistent internet service.

Some of the companies that provide internet service in nearby areas said it is only profitable for them to extend with financial assistance from the government. One option is money from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The state also has made money available to help provide service.

Parker said there is more than $1 billion available for internet extension in underserved areas of Indiana.

“If I understand it right, USDA Rural Development sees this as like the rural electric program” of the 1930s and 40s, Gary Naylor, president of the commissioners, said.

In those earlier decades, the federal government helped develop rural electric cooperatives to extend service to areas where it was too expensive to string wires to carry power to far-flung houses and farms.

In making a motion to approve having the county pay for $10,000 of the study, commissioner Mark Nobbe said that high speed internet will help local schools and students. Where many school systems have students do assignments from home with their computers, that is not possible in Fayette County because of the number of homes which can’t get internet service.

Additionally, the EDG committee has found, not having internet service hampers business development.

Parker said applications for a current round of internet funding are due in April. He was not sure whether the local study can be completed by then but said there will be more opportunities to seek the money in the future.

Pulse Broadband is part of NRTC, the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, whose board of directors represent the national rural electric and telephone industries.
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