BENTON COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Reliable internet has been hard to come by in Benton County for years. The lack of internet in the area was recently recognized in a study done at Purdue University.
"When you look at Benton County they were actually outlined by a study that came out of Purdue University the Digital Divide index as being number two in the state for having the least connectivity," said Zach Stephens the External Development Manager Mainstream Fiber Networks.
Now, Benton County is on its way to having faster internet.
"It's gotten to the point where we are actually hanging fiber they are hanging quite a bit every day,” said Paul Jackson the Economic Development Director for Benton County. “It's not far from being a reality at this point."
So far, around 30 miles of fiber optic cable has been deployed. The company Mainstream Fiber Networks will eventually deploy over 100 miles of cable. This will allow residents and businesses to have access to high-speed internet. The Hoosier owned company specializes in provided connectivity to rural Indiana.
"We've always been focusing on rural Indiana specifically making sure they are on a level playing field and larger urban areas in the state," said Stephens.
The project was made possible by the state's Next Level Broadband grants. The requested grant amount was more than $3 million with a local match of nearly $3.2 million for a total project cost of more than $6.2 million. When the project is finished, around 2,400 unserved households and 554 unserved businesses in Benton County will have access to high-speed internet. This new development will help the county's economic future.
"Nobody is going to want to bring a company or their family to this area if you can't stream Netflix if you can't run a business or anything along those lines,” added Jackson. “Hopefully it will hopefully create a lot more growth for the area."
This project is just the beginning of Mainstream fibers expansion in the area; they plan to expand their service in the future.
"Once the Next Level Connections project is completed then it goes to expansion so we can try to cover as many people in the county with this project as possible,” said Stephens.
Mainstream Fiber Networks says they hope to have the project completed by March or April of next year. However, that schedule is tentative because of COVID-19, which could push their installation phase back. The company has two years to complete the project, but they hope to finish installing sooner. Once the installation is complete connectivity for residents and businesses will be rolled out in phases. The company is opening a storefront in Benton County so they can have people on the ground ready to troubleshoot any issues that may arise when needed.