Rural Indiana Facing 'Have/Have-not Situation'

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The chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Indiana Fiber Network LLC calls the 16-year-old broadband internet provider "a great Hoosier success story." IFN, which was launched with a focus on high-speed connectivity for 20 rural telephone companies, now includes some 4,000 buildings throughout the state plugged-in through a network of more than 4,500 miles of fiber. Despite its growth, Jim Turner says there's still work to be done to bridge the broadband access gap in rural areas. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Turner said IFN has made strides in underserved areas, but "there continues to be a little bit of a have, have-not situation."

IFN is in the midst of a major statewide network upgrade that Turner says will involve a $50 million investment in the coming years. Over the last two years, IFN says it has pumped $20 million into improvements. The company's total investment in Indiana during the next five years, Turner says, could hit $100 million. "It's really on two things. One is on expanding our network," he said. "The second thing is to really upgrade the network. As the network continues to grow -- as the demand on the network continues to grow -- we need more bandwidth and if you think about it as going from a two-lane highway to an 88-lane highway. That's really what the upgrade investment is doing is allowing (us) to get more cars on that road."

Turner says Indiana's traditional economic power sources are farming, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, but high-tech avenues are important for the future. "We're really moving to a data economy. When you look at what's really going on out there with some of the largest providers of different services in the world -- largest rental car company owns no cars: that's Uber -- what does it own? It owns data, and so the ability to delivery that -- you know, we're providing the highway for that high-speed data to travel," Turner says. He adds other advances like autonomous vehicle technology will also require broadband, which gives him optimism for the future of the state and IFN.

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