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Pyrmont residents pushing for broadband internet

Residents in a rural town are pushing for better internet access. That comes as Gov. Eric Holcomb touts his efforts to increase broadband connectivity across the state.

Posted: Oct 9, 2020 4:22 PM
Updated: Oct 9, 2020 6:19 PM

PYRMONT, Ind. (WLFI) - Residents in a rural town are pushing for better internet access. That comes as Gov. Eric Holcomb touts his efforts to increase broadband connectivity across the state.

More people have been working and learning from home since the pandemic, which is straining networks in rural towns like Pyrmont that have few options for internet service.

As News 18 previously reported, Holcomb is investing millions of dollars to expand broadband to Indiana's rural areas.
But Pyrmont resident Sherry Cole says her small town has been left out of the mix.

"We've obviously lived out here for 15 years and have never seen any compensation or any improvement," she says. "If anything, it's kind of gotten worse."

The Cole family recently sent a letter to Holcomb detailing their difficulties to find reliable internet. Her husband, Troy, posted the letter to a Pyrmont Facebook group.

One of those challenges was completing online assignments while Rossville schools transitioned to e-learning last week. Cole took her two younger children to her office in Lafayette for a better connection.

"People don't understand how bad it is when you live in the rural community," she says. "I think they think because we're 2020 that everyone has fast internet."

Superintendent James Hanna says some students tailgated in the parking lot just to use the internet.

"Rossville is kind of an island that has internet, where some of our surrounding communities do not have very good broadband connection," he says. 

The nearest internet service provider to Pyrmont is Mulberry Telecommunications. CEO Randy Maish says the company is adding fiber-optic cables within its current territory.

"We hope to done in our ILEC territory in the next two years and at that time, we'll look at expanding outside the territory and possibilities like Pyrmont would come into play, where we would look at them," he says. 

Maish says it's expensive to extend fiber to new communities even with grants provided from the state.

"The biggest challenge is the cost," he says. "We calculate it's roughly a little over $30,000 a mile to install it, and people don't realize the expense of it."

Indiana's Next Level Connections broadband program is directed by the lieutenant governor's office. The office provided the following statement:

“The Next Level Connections Broadband Program was implemented in order to help promote access to reliable and affordable internet to all areas of Indiana. Through this program, providers apply for projects for broadband buildout to eligible unserved areas in the state. The telecommunications providers and utility cooperatives provide matching funds for their proposed projects, making this program a true private/public collaboration to bring affordable and reliable access to communities in need.”

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