Broadband service coming to rural DeKalb County
By Dave Kurtz | KPC Media - The Star
A company has received federal funding to bring broadband internet service to rural DeKalb County, the county commissioners heard Monday.
Frank Glaszner of Integrated Network Concepts explained his plan at a meeting in the courthouse at Auburn.
Watch Communications has been awarded $52 million to supply high-speed internet to underserved areas in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, including DeKalb County, he said. Integrated Network Concepts is the engineering affiliate of Watch Communications.
The company must provide service within six years, Glaszner said. The company intends to exceed that goal by completing the service within four years and at higher speeds than required, he said.
“We have a lot of very progressive farmers who are hungry for this and really need this,” County Commissioner Randy Deetz told Glaszner.
The company intends to offer the data service through radio transmitters mounted on tall structures in the county, possibly including grain silos, Glaszner said. It could offer free or discounted services to farmers who permit antennas on their silos.
Glaszner also inquired about using the courthouse as a transmitter site. Auburn Mayor Norm Yoder suggested the county’s central dispatching tower, near DeKalb High School, as a central point.
Watch Communications is one of 220 providers across the nation chosen to receive Connect America Funds from the Federal Communications Commission, Glazner said. Nearly 20 times that many applied.
He showed a map illustrating that most of eastern and northwestern of DeKalb County are underserved by internet, along with a smaller area in the southwest corner of the county. He defined “underserved” as areas that lack at least 25 megabits per second of download speed and 5 megabits per second of upload speed.
Most of those underserved areas probably lack even 5 MB of download speed, he added.
“It’s not enough to watch Netflix, let alone take any online courses from a university,” he said.
Deetz agreed that streaming Netflix is just “a dream” as his home east of Corunna.
Glaszner said his company aims to provide service at 100 MB of download speed and 10 MB of upload speed.
“There may be opportunities to bring other manufacturing in through economic development” with broadband available, Glaszner said.
“Obviously this is a fantastic thing, for the businesses, for the citizens of the county,” Anton King, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership, said after hearing Glaszner’s presentation.
Glaszner said his purpose in speaking to the commissioners about broadband service is: “We want to come to you and ask: How should we do that in your county?” He added, “If we’re going to build it, let’s build it smart.”
As another use for the service, he said school 1-to-1 computer programs need connectivity at rural students’ homes.
In building the network, “I’m sure my staff would love to talk to you,” Yoder told Glaszner. The city of Auburn operates Auburn Essential Services, a municipally owned broadband utility.
Glaszner said Integrated Network Concepts is affiliated with Watch Communications. Its website says Watch Communications focuses on unserved and underserved small and rural markets throughout Indiana and Ohio, providing service to more than 15,000 homes and businesses. Watch Communications is a subsidiary of Benton Ridge Telephone Co., which is listed as a winning bidder in Federal Communications Commission documents.
The FCC created the Connect America Fund to encourage providers to deliver broadband to areas that do not have access to high-speed Internet. The agency set aside about $2 billion in the Connect America Fund, which comes from the Universal Service Fund paid by consumers on their phone and internet bills.