Howard County plans to use part of its American Rescue Plan money to help expand the broadband offerings to underserved areas within the county.
The county commissioners unanimously approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) last week, seeking plans from internet service providers on expanding “high speed wireless and fiber internet to unserved and underserved” parts of the county. The deadline for submissions is July 8. The board will later choose a proposal through a vote.
The county will pay for any expansion that it chooses with money received from the ARP. Commissioner Paul Wyman said Tuesday the county is expecting to allocate anywhere from $1.5 million to $2 million toward the broadband expansion project.
Howard County received $16 million from the federal stimulus program — half of which has been received and put into the county’s coffers.
The RFP has a few stipulations, including that the speed offered by the ISPs must meet at least 100mps down, 20mps up and a latency of 100ms.
Companies who respond to the RFP must also list a pricing structure and any subsidies for low-income residents. It also stipulates that the infrastructure for the broadband must be in place and operational by the end of this year, though Wyman said that is not a hard deadline and that the board expects some buildout to be completed next year.
Unlike previous public-private broadband partnerships, this one targets either wireless or fiber internet to all areas of the county — not just a specific area.
The need for reliable and fast broadband internet in rural parts of Indiana and the county has been prevalent for years, though the need became even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns forced some to complete their schooling or jobs online in their own homes.