Bartholomew County approves rural internet agreement

Bartholomew County is moving forward with a contract to offer fiber optic internet service to rural areas of the community.

County Commissioners approved a master development agreement yesterday with Hoosier Networks, through Meridiam Infrastructure, to begin the project. The goal is to bring high speed internet into almost 12,000 homes.

In December, county commissioners sought proposals from companies that were willing to provide rural broadband to the county, for a share of $4 million set aside from federal COVID-19 relief funds. Meridiam Infrastructure ad AT&T were the only companies to submit proposals that met specifications.

County Commissioner Tony London has headed up the county’s efforts to improve high-speed internet access. He said the contract would be a game changer for those with poor or no internet access in the county.

The company said it will now be asking for a tax abatement to hold off on paying property taxes on the new infrastructure. The tax break request will go before Bartholomew County Council for consideration. The City of Columbus recently approved a similar request from the company, waiving 95 percent of the property taxes on the new investment for 20 years.

London and County Attorney Grant Tucker said the project can’t move forward financially without the benefits of the tax abatement.