2018: A Year of Change For Indiana's Broadband

Posted: Updated:

If you had asked me 10 years ago what the internet would look like in 2018, I’m certain I would not have predicted the major players driving internet usage today – primarily because those drivers were in their infancy at the time. Netflix, for example, had just launched an online streaming service in 2008 to complement its then-groundbreaking (and Blockbuster-destroying) DVD-by-mail service. Today, Netflix streaming consumes 15 percent of the world’s internet bandwidth – more than any other application. In North America during peak evening hours, Netflix can consume 40 percent of all downstream traffic.

Social media, something that was also just beginning to find its way a decade ago, is now a big consumer of bandwidth – representing some 5.1 percent of the world’s downstream internet traffic. The big player in that group – Facebook – today has 1.47 billion daily active users. A decade ago, Facebook didn’t even have a like button (which means it must have been far less distracting during work hours!).

Obviously, streaming entertainment services and social media have become an integral part of how many people live, communicate, and interact. In the business world, the connectivity provided by high-speed bandwidth has become not just a nice-to-have, but an absolute imperative. This means that high-speed connectivity can’t depend on whether someone lives or works in a large city, a small town, or a rural area. It needs to be ubiquitous. The agribusiness in Atlanta, Indiana, needs access to high-speed fiber broadband every bit as much as the high-powered law firm in downtown Indianapolis.

It is gratifying to see legislators and policymakers, not to mention private businesses, beginning to shine a spotlight on the need to meet the increased demand for bandwidth. We saw several major changes in the focus on broadband in the Hoosier State this year. I anticipate that as users increasingly rely on the internet as a pathway for their social interaction and entertainment choices, and as businesses increasingly demand high-speed connectivity to compete effectively in a global marketplace, we will see this focus on broadband become ever more acute in the coming years.

Government investment in broadband

Passed in March, Indiana House Bill 1065 “authorizes the office of community and rural affairs to award grants to qualified broadband providers in connection with qualified broadband projects involving the deployment of infrastructure to provide qualified broadband service in unserved areas in Indiana.” While the effects of this bill remain to be seen, it obviously signals the importance the state of Indiana places on ubiquitous, high-speed bandwidth. House Bill 1065 provides real money for these communities.

In September, Governor Holcomb took HB 1065 one step further when he unveiled his $1 billion “Next Level Connections” infrastructure plan. In addition to accelerating major road projects, improving the state’s trail system, and attracting more international flights to Indianapolis, “Next Level Connections” includes a $100 million investment to increase broadband speeds, which will help bring affordable, high-speed, fiber optic broadband access to un- and under-served communities in the state. This investment is a firm commitment to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas and increase productivity across the state.

Around the same time the Governor was announcing his administration’s broadband priorities, a Purdue study was released that contends that for every $1 you invest in rural broadband expansion, the community gets $4 back in economic activity. While there are a lot of assumptions that go into that statistic, if Indiana commits to a 1-to-4 investment ratio, it’s going to accelerate growth throughout the state.

New players in broadband: REMCs

In addition to the increased attention from policymakers, broadband connectivity is drawing in new players as well. Although there have been connectivity improvements in rural Indiana – most notably in areas served by IFN’s 20 local exchange company owners, more must be done. IFN has primarily been a middle-mile provider, reaching 78 of Indiana’s 92 counties. We want to expand to more counties and deepen our presence in the counties we already serve. We need partners who are going to service both the residential and business needs of the communities. Not all fiber broadband providers run fiber to the home (FTTH), so partnerships to bridge the that physical fiber line divide will need to grow.

One of the new partnerships we’re exploring is with the Rural Electric Membership Co-ops (REMC) community. These companies already have facilities (e.g., utility poles) in many rural parts of the state. There may be a natural synergy associated with IFN working with its own local exchange company members and REMCs to ensure that un- and under-served areas of the state have access to high-speed fiber broadband. During 2018, several REMCs either launched a FTTH initiative or began exploring one. We expect to see more of this activity in 2019.

Final thoughts

The explosion of investment in fiber broadband we saw in 2018 should continue in 2019. Infrastructure firms and private equity groups are investing in broadband providers and bringing significant capital to this market. The advent of 5G will only enhance the demand for ubiquitous high-speed connectivity. We look forward to being part of the continued bandwidth revolution in 2019.

Jim Turner is the President and CEO of Intelligent Fiber Network.

  • Perspectives

    • "Wood" You Consider Investing in Timber?

      Looking for an untraditional way to diversify your traditional stock and fixed-income portfolio? If so, try thinking outside the typical realm of investable assets. Don’t know where to start? How about going against the “grain” and investing in timber? Why Trees? Investing in timber can yield a number of benefits. The main draw of having timber in your portfolio is its low, long-term correlation to traditional investments such as stocks and bonds. Low correlation...

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • 1SI executives Matt Hall and Wendy Dant Chesser talked about the project on Inside INdiana Business.

      Momentum Building at 'Hot Spot' River Ridge

      As economic development officials in southeast Indiana welcomed news last week of Louisville-based PharmaCord's plans to invest $52 million and add up to 850 jobs at the River Ridge Commerce Center, they were quick to add there is more development on the horizon. River Ridge is a sprawling, 6,000 acre park located between Jeffersonville and Charlestown that was once home to the massive Indiana Army Ammunition plant and thousands of jobs. Today more than 50 companies call River...

    • Foppers CEO Michelle Leffurt (left) and Executive Director of National Sales Emily Gillam

      Logansport Company Selected in Walmart Open Call

      A Logansport-based dog treat manufacturer is one of several companies chosen to have their products sold on Walmart shelves. Foppers Pet Treat Bakery took part in Walmart's annual Open Call event, in which hundreds of small businesses and entrepreneurs pitched their products for the chance to sell them in stores. Foppers Chief Executive Officer Michelle Leffert says she was shocked to hear she was selected during the two-day event at Walmart's headquarters in Arkansas.

    • Colts Name Overton As Producer

      The Indianapolis Colts have named Larra Overton as the team's new producer and on-air talent. Overton currently is a sports reporter and anchor for Fox59 WXIN/CBS4 WTTV. She will serve as producer for Colts Productions and will serve as the television sideline reporter for preseason broadcasts and radio sideline reporter for regular season games. Overton holds two degrees from Indiana University. 
    • Bethel University Names CFO

      Bethel University has named Jerry White as vice president for administration & finance and chief financial officer. White most recently served as COO at Culver Academics and will begin his new duties on August 19. He has nearly two decades of business and finance career experience with prior positions as vice president for finance and administration at Albion College and as vice president at Spring Arbor University. 

    • Stacy Deitrich

      MutualFirst Adds Deitrich

      Muncie-based-MutualFirst Financial has appointed Stacy Deitrich loan originator at the bank's subsidiary, Summitmortgage in St. Joe, Michigan. She has worked in the mortgage lending industry for ten years.