COOLSPRING TWP. — A task force created to bring high-speed internet to residents of rural area has announced its first success – a new fiber line serving some residents of unincorporated Michigan City.

The La Porte County Broadband Task Force is focused on broadband needs across the county, and positive developments are occurring, including the new fiber being installed, according to Tony Rodriguez, director of the La Porte County Office of Community and Economic Development.

The task force has held numerous, in-depth discussions with broadband companies that provide internet services in the county, including ACME Communications, a Michigan City-based provider of high-speed internet, digital telephone, and digital high-definition television to customers in Michigan City, Westville and La Porte.

ACME CEO Bill Richey met on Sept. 27, with the Task Force, a group of volunteer tech experts chaired by La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias and directed by Rodriguez, and learned of the need for more fiber to the unserved parts of the county.

In learning that CR-300N between County Line Road and U.S. 421 – an area near ACME’s deployed fiber – was underserved, he agreed to act, and ACME has increased its services and deployed new fiber for residents of the area, Richey said.

“We are in the digital age and this is an area already near our existing infrastructure; it makes sense to help our citizens have improved, reliable internet,” he said.

This new fiber deployment will help serve 20 to 30 properties on the county road and 90 percent of the properties are now connected to the new fiber, he said.

“Prior to our investment, their connection was a hot spot with speed of 256K. Now with the new fiber, they are at 100G. Their internet speed has improved and is now 100,000 times faster,” Richey said.

The Broadband Task Force is excited about the milestone and the opportunities it holds for serving more of that area, Rodriguez said. Discussions continue with ACME about possibly continuing down County Line Road to serve subdivisions further south which would help hundreds of residents gain more reliable, faster internet connections.

The vision of the Task Force is to “create equitable deployment and utilization of adequate broadband infrastructure to improve the quality of life and competitiveness required for every family, resident, business, and organization in La Porte County,” Rodriguez said. “Our mission is to ensure La Porte County plans for, transitions to, and prospers in the digital age through a transformation into a human-centered, digitally- inclusive technology-ready ecosystem across all communities.”

Under the direction of Rodriguez and community tech experts as advisors, the task force has made big moves in just a few short months since being created this past spring, said Matias, founder and chair of the task force.

“This project is a heavy lift and we know that we won’t solve this problem quickly,” Matias said. “But since its formation, Tony and our team has made great strides for our county. Our goal is to keep pushing forward to ensure that La Porte County residents and businesses have access to high-speed internet.

“It’s not a luxury anymore – it is an essential utility we all need. Our goal is to make sure that we have enhanced digital-ready communities for all, not just in our urban areas.”

The Task Force is “our local think tank and is a boots on the ground attempt to survey needs and current infrastructure, and using this information, work to directly assist in finding a solution to this critical infrastructure issue,” La Porte County Board of Commissioner President Dr. Vidya Kora said.

“We are really happy to see this very significant first step towards a connected county. Each step the Task Force can take to move the needle on this large project helps improve the quality of life for everyone across the county,” he said.

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski agreed, saying, “The group has worked hard to make strides and to see progress already is very exciting. We know there is a lot of need out there.”

“I applaud the task force as well as ACME Communications for this important first step,” said Randy Novak, president of the La Porte County Council and founding member of the Task Force. “We know that other providers will want to join them and put their money where their mouth is to make this substantial infrastructure investment.”

—From staff reports

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