Local leaders urge broadband for rural areas

Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins and USDA specialist managers Anthony Kirkland and David Hacker talk about infrastructure during the Regional Economic Development Summit Wednesday.

NAPPANEE — Bringing broadband internet access to rural areas isn’t a silver bullet for economic development, but it is a vital ingredient, a senior specialist in the U.S. Department of Commerce says.

Don Williams, senior broadband development officer for BroadbandUSA in the Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications, spoke at the Regional Economic Development Summit in Nappanee on Wednesday. The summit followed the November meeting of the Michiana Area Council of Governments Policy Board.

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I recommend that they look into what Chattanooga, Tennessee did about this. They created their own internet services to handle those outside of areas that the local cable company handled. Much like the parallel with electricity in outlaying regions were handled locally. Two relatively local companies that took this type of stance were REMC over in Marshal County (started in 1935. Read their brief history at http://www.marshallremc.com/content/history) and New Paris Telephone, started in 1901 by 18 farmers because homes were too far flung for even small, national, hone corporations like United, that served Nappanee for decades, before being purchased by Sprint, or GTE, that serviced much of Elkhart county.

Using Chattanooga's business plan as a guideline, one extra benefit of a government owned service is to not only serve the residents of Elkhart County but to also provide faster broadband service than the companies, like AT&T and Comcast, offer. Currently, the average internet speed in the US is 18.7Mb/s, ranking us #10 on the list of internet speed by country. South Korea is at #1 with an internet speed of 28.6 Mb/s. Chattanooga offers 3 different packages: 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gpbs internet connections yet, because they are a government owned entity, their fees are on par with the commercial carriers.

Besides family farms and industries being so scattered around the county, and new housing developments coming into play over the upcoming decades, it would behoove the residents of Elkhart county to actually start a real high speed service.

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