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BusINess » Business Technology » County joins regional broadband effort

County joins regional broadband effort

Midwest Broadband Map included in a NWI Connectivity report by the Northwest Indiana Forum. (Image provided.)

Midwest Broadband Map included in a NWI Connectivity report by the Northwest Indiana Forum. (Image provided.)

The newly revamped Porter County Board of Commissioners agreed this week to take part in a regional effort aimed at expanding broadband Internet access.

At the request of the county’s redevelopment commission, the commissioners agreed to seek proposals from those interested in carrying out a feasibility study. The study is expected to cost about $50,000.

The study will be carried out as part of a larger effort by the Northwest Indiana Forum to expand access to broadband service throughout Porter, Lake, LaPorte and Starke counties, Mark Maassel said. He is president and chief executive of the Northwest Indiana Forum.

“It’s critical for creating jobs,” he said.

One timely example of the need for the increased speed and capacity offered by broadband is the medical community, which is required by the new federal health care legislation to handle medical records electronically, Maassel said.

“We do need more capacity in place,” he said.

While the organization set out initially to tackle this need on a regional basis, it turned out to be more manageable to address it county-by-county, Forum Director of Economic Development Don Koliboski said.

The organization conducted a study last year to identify what type of broadband service is already available through the region, he said. Much of the broadband service stretching between either coast in this country pass through this area, he said, though not all of it is accessible.

One potential access point in Porter County is along the South Shore railroad tracks to the north, he said.

Porter County’s feasibility study will look closer into what broadband services already exist, what is possible and who are some of the key users, Koliboski said. The effort will primarily target business, government and educational users, he said, followed by the residential market.

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