In 2014, an economic development group representing several Southern Indiana counties contacted FG to discuss planning, building, and operating fiberoptic networks. But at the end of the day, the only county that was ready to move forward was Warrick County.
This visionary county had an ambitious goal· to not just improve the county’s broadband network, but to make it a gigabit community, on par with the world’s most technologically advanced communities.
The Need for Speed
Warrick County, Indiana, has a lot going for it. In the Warrick County School Corporation, it has one of the best school systems in the state. The Warrick Wellness Trail, a growing and booming medical district, has positioned the county to become the center of healthcare in a three-state region. With fast access to Interstates 64 and 69 — and a short distance to the major markets of St Louis, Louisville, Nashville, and Indianapolis — Warrick County is ideally located.
“We have a mix of everything and something for everyone,” says Steve Roelle, Executive Director of Success Warrick County, the county’s economic development arm.
But what Warrick County doesn’t have-yet-is a robust, county-wide fiberoptic network. With only a portion of the county serviced by broadband, “We could see the writing on the wall from an economic development standpoint,” Roelle says.
“Building roads and sewers and waterlines is important, but we consider broadband the infrastructure of the 21st Century. It is shrinking the world and the way we communicate and collaborate, and the way people work and learn.”
Roelle hears from county residents whose adult children want to move back to the area because they can work from anywhere in the country but they can’t return to their hometown because they don’t have the connectivity out of their homes to allow them to work remotely.
Another example: The Warrick County School Corporation is moving to a one-on-one technology initiative where every student in the county receives a Chromebook. But the innovative initiative hits a roadblock because some students go home and can’t connect to receive or turn in assignments, interact with their teachers, or collaborate with their classmates. That lack of connectivity, says Roelle, the father of two middle schoolers, creates an “uneven playing field and unfair situation” for those students.
Those are just a couple of examples of why the county wants better speed, not just in densely populated areas, but in every corner of the county, too.
Warrick Turns to FG for Guidance
When faced with its broadband service issue, Warrick County could have chosen to simply grumble about its service and blame providers. Instead, it began exploring options with the guidance and expertise of the FG team. The county considered-then dismissed-being its own broadband service provider. Instead, with FG’s prompting, the county decided to invest in a provider that would develop what it wanted an advanced, county-wide fiber broadband program.
FG did a study, talking with key customers, such as county government, schools, and the medical community to assess their feelings about current broadband service FG confirmed that the county did, indeed, have very average service. FG also interviewed service providers. Ultimately, the economic development group went to the Warrick County Council with a plan to bring broadband service to approximately 83% of the county. But that wasn’t good enough. The council challenged the group to figure out a way to service the remaining 17% of county residents.
Ultimately, Warrick County found a partner in Mainstream Fiber Networks of Nashville, Indiana. The company, which had completed similar projects in Harrison County and Nashville, will build, manage, and offer Internet service for the Advanee Fiber Backbone project to approximately 83% of the county. The remaining 17% will be serviced by a wireless provider that will build and manage the rural wireless portion of the network.
The total project will cost an estimated $15-$20 million and will be distributed among the three partners Warrick County, Mainstream, and the wireless provider.
Warrick County Controls Its Destiny
Over the next 24 months, Warrick County will achieve its goal of being a gigabit community. The credit, says David Lunemann, FG’s Vice President of Client Services, goes to the county.
“Warrick County is a very courageous client that flew in the face of a lot of resistance and stuck to a path,” Lunemann says. “FG simply helped them on that journey. We were technical experts. We were an advisor. We were a strategist. But Warrick County had its hand on the tiller the whole time .”
Warrick County’s Roelle agrees but praises FG in return.
“Our ace in the hole, our solution, was partnering with FG,” Roelle says. “From the feasibility side to the technology side to their experience aII the way through. They’re going to be there to the finish line when this installed fiber is tested and accepted We are nothing but happy that we partnered with FG.”
Roelle says Warrick County especially appreciates FG’s transparency and unbiased approach.
“FG was truly an independent advisor bringing their experience and knowledge base to help us get the best program that we could,” Roelle says. “They’re not tied to a big provider, small provider, or anybody else. They didn’t have a dog in that fight. They wanted to make sure we got the results we were looking for.”