The Northwest Indiana Forum and ComControl, contracted telecom consultants, presented the findings of a 6-month project to identify broadband and other fiber optic infrastructure throughout the region. Through the generosity of a Chase grant, the information gathered shows where there is opportunity to enhance connectivity, capitalizing on the current and available infrastructure and growing the regional broadband grid.
Availability, accessibility and affordability are the keys to the report. While the report indicates that the region boasts significant “long distance” routes, there is predominantly mid-grade, medium capacity connectivity with few broadband assets in place, thus limited or no regional access to these routes at an affordable cost.
Additional broadband availability is necessary, making service and connections accessible at an affordable price. Northwest Indiana is keenly positioned between Chicago and South Bend to tap into these routes once further fiber optic infrastructure is in place.
The report identifies only a single provider in last mile connectivity, 99 large users, just over 200 miles of immediate development opportunity, 15 other municipal/business broadband initiatives and 40 metro-area/regional models and best practices from around the country.
Recommendations made lay out the next steps in developing a regional system: Collaborate (create steering and technical committees); Plan (use the data gathered to create a system); Create a central business body (over see and manage the project); Create community connectivity sectors (begin to connect what is available, community to community while creating the regional grid); Achieve Balance (blend collaboration and independence); and Focus on the user (deliver real value).
“The Forum is prepared to and interested in leading this regional initiative, engaging both the public and private sectors and utilizing available resources, both human and capital, to focus the efforts and begin technical, financial and strategic planning,” stated Mark Maassel, Forum President and CEO.
The project team examined Lake, Porter, LaPorte and Starke Counties, delving into each community, for various assets including conduit, aerial/terrestrial fiber, network access points, towers and other fiber indicators. More than 49 service providers, nearly 500 users of all sizes, and 150 plus municipal/regional leaders were interviewed or surveyed.
“Broadband access is critical to companies looking at Northwest Indiana for business development. With no national or state fiber optic plan or inventory available for use, the Forum filled a true need for this region. We can assist companies utilizing the base inventory that’s been assembled and use the recommendations to promote how the region is moving further into the broadband era,” said Don Koliboski, Forum Director of Economic Development.