BLOOMINGTON – Since Meridiam announced its plans in May 2022 to bring high-speed internet access to all of Bloomington, the City of Bloomington and Meridiam have activated the operations phase of this transformational project.
Hoosier Networks, the fiber network utility provider established by Meridiam, announced on September 13 its partnership with GigabitNow as the primary ISP (Internet Service Provider) under the Hoosier Networks agreement with the City.
Hoosier Networks plans to break ground on the $50-million-plus network next month and GigabitNow will deliver fiber-based broadband services to the first residents by the end of January 2023. GigabitNow will offer service of at least 1 Gigabit per second symmetrical speed (equal upload and download) everywhere the Hoosier Network network reaches. The cost-of-service rates with the initial ISP will be competitive locally and regionally.
Hoosier Networks and the City continue to collaborate on a groundbreaking digital equity program, one of the most innovative broadband public-private collaborations in the country, to help low-income and digitally-disadvantaged households access top-quality internet services. Eligible low-income residents will qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Plan (ACP) to get a symmetrical 250 megabits per second (Mbps) plan at reduced or no cost to them. The City and Hoosier Networks will together provide the “drop” connection to qualifying households, which combined with the Biden Administration’s new $30 Affordable Connectivity Program means eligible low-income residents can receive high bandwidth fiber-based internet service at zero net cost. Hoosier Networks will also contribute $85k annually for digital equity funding and will be part of the City’s new Digital Equity Fund established as part of the 2023 budget. This fund will support the new Digital Equity Specialist and Navigator position. All residents can learn more and pre-register at no cost or obligation at gigabitnow.com/bloomington.
Under the Hoosier Networks agreement with the City, GigabitNow is the exclusive ISP for at least a five-year term. After the exclusive period ends the network will become a full open-access network, open to other ISPs, including local providers, for the lifetime of the network. GigabitNow staff has visited Bloomington and continues to meet with City staff.
“Digital inclusion and digital literacy are basic tools that all Bloomingtonians need in our daily lives and to participate fully in community and civic life,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “We are pleased to work with Hoosier Networks and GigabitNow to help meet those needs and to improve the quality of life for everyone in Bloomington —now, and for the future.”
To learn more about the City of Bloomington’s Digital Equity program, visit bloomington.in.gov/digital-equity.
Hoosier Networks will establish an office in Bloomington in the coming weeks and brought on a CEO on September 12. Existing interim leadership will continue through the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition period. Hoosier Networks is based in Bloomington and plans to grow here as its footprint expands within the state. Columbus, Shelbyville, and Bartholomew County now have Hoosier Networks projects underway and are moving forward following Bloomington’s lead.
Hoosier Networks is now evaluating several other Indiana and regional locations for potential further rounds of fiber infrastructure projects. “As eventful as the lead-up public approval process was, the operational phase has been even more intense,” said Rick Dietz, Director of City of Bloomington Information & Technology Services. “There are parallel activities on many tracks that are now converging. Network construction, network management, digital equity programming, and ISP service are all coming together. We’re especially excited that visible work on the network will begin soon and services should be available at the beginning of 2023.”
As details develop, updates will be available online at bloomington.in.gov/fiber.
The Hamilton administration prioritized establishing a community-wide high-speed fiber network to provide broad and equitable access to this essential 21st-century technology. Since 2016, Bloomington has sought a partner to build and operate a city-wide FTTP network. The primary goals have been broad community coverage, a voice at the table for the City, a financially feasible business model, open access and net neutrality, and commitment to digital equity.
After several explorations of prospective partnerships, and after nearly a year of discussions and site visits from Meridiam, the City signed an LOI with Meridiam. Because of Indiana’s business personal property tax structure, a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district will support the city-wide build. Bloomington’s Hoosier Networks Tax Increment Finance (TIF) process and master agreement review culminated in July 2022 with near-unanimous support from the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission (RDC), Plan Commission, City Council, Bloomington Digital Underground Advisory Committee ( BDUAC), and Board of Public Works (BPW).
In 2020 the City Information & Technology Services (ITS) Department conducted a Digital Equity Survey, which informs the City’s Digital Equity Strategic Plan. Related to the Meridiam project, the City’s digital equity plan calls for the City to:
- Continue to pursue potential fiber infrastructure partners to achieve the City’s Goals.
- Reduce financial barriers to adoption through support and promotion of subsidy programs like ACP (US Affordable Connectivity Program).
- Expand the City’s digital equity funding to further support digital equity initiatives. (The fund currently supports annual digital equity grants to nonprofit organizations and was first established under the Recover Forward initiative in 2020.)
About Digital Equity & Net Neutrality
Digital Equity is defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) as “a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.”
Net Neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers should treat all internet data equally. This means not blocking access to lawful sites, services, and content, and not offering paid prioritization or otherwise prioritizing, discriminating, or charging differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, a destination address, or method of communication.
Learn more at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance at digitalinclusion.org. Bloomington has been recognized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as a 2021 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer.
Meridiam is a public infrastructure developer, investor, and manager specializing in greenfield infrastructure and committed to delivering sustainable and resilient projects that positively impact communities for the long term. As a mission-driven firm built on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Meridiam believes sustainability can be best achieved if it is incorporated into the financing, design, building, operating, and long-term maintenance of infrastructure projects, and is rigorously measured.
Meridiam operates in primary key sectors of sustainable mobility (including roads, rail, tramways, airports, electric buses, and electric vehicle charging points), innovative low carbon solutions (including water and waste facilities and energy efficiency projects), and critical public services (including healthcare, schools, public buildings, and digital infrastructure). Meridiam invests globally in approximately 100 projects and assets under development, construction, or operation, in 26 countries representing $18 billion USD in assets under management.
Meridiam is active in North America with a significant investment and project portfolio, a 15-year track record, and extensive industry expertise. At present, Meridiam manages 19 different infrastructure projects in the US and Canada and continues to develop new projects.
Learn more about Meridiam at meridiam.com.