WHIN Hosts Roundtable on Rural Broadband for Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch

Just days after Indiana announced that it will receive over $868 million in federal funding to address rural broadband, the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) hosted a roundtable on its broadband initiatives at the request of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.

The event had been in the works for some time, according to WHIN CEO Johnny Park.

“But the timing could not have been better,” says Park. “This was an opportunity to make the case for including broadband solutions that go beyond speed to addresses and include the innovations in virtual and AI-based wireless technologies that can make the rural broadband business model sustainable and able to keep up with the ever-growing needs of rural communities going forward.”

With the help of $1.7 million in U.S. Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration funding, WHIN is demonstrating how the model could benefit the state. With towers already equipped in Benton, Fountain, Montgomery and White counties, and Cass coming online soon, WHIN expects the remaining counties in its region to have deployments over the coming year.

The roundtable was a chance to get representative stakeholders together and find out how the model is working.

Montgomery County officials chose Ladoga to be served by Tarana and Telrad gear chosen by WHIN for their state-of-the-art capabilities. Lack of broadband has been a significant barrier in a community with enormous economic development potential.

Ladoga resident Blake Zachary, who often works remotely from his home, said that he and his daughter were on the verge of moving from Ladoga because of the lack of broadband. “Previously, my speeds were less than 25 Mbps and unable to meet my needs. The new network is consistently giving me 200 Mbps service, and up to 350 Mps,” says Zachary. “We are, to say the least, extremely happy to be able to stay in our hometown.”

According to Greg Jarman, VP of Broadband partnerships for WHIN, one of the biggest challenges to demonstrating WHIN’s model was attracting traditional service providers to sell services from a network they do not own. That was the last piece to fall into place, says Jarman.

Two of the service providers who currently have customers on WHIN’s network were on hand to explain why they are taking a chance with a very different business model.

MetaLINK Technologies, a regional service provider headquartered in Ohio, is selling services from all of WHIN’s locations.

“It’s actually pretty simple,” MetaLINK CEO Phil Maag told the Lieutenant Governor and state broadband officials. “I can expand my customer base with no capital investment. We are satisfied that WHIN’s network is up to our very high standards of performance and maintenance. It is helping us meet our goals faster.”

ACCS Networks CEO Marc Hodges agreed with Maag.

“ACCS currently serves the eastern part of the WHIN region, especially Clinton County,” said Hodges. “We now have the chance to strengthen and expand our network and are beginning to serve new customers in Ladoga, as we look forward to WHIN’s deployment in Clinton County.”

The roundtable proved to be helpful to Earnie Holtrey, Deputy Director of the Indiana Broadband Office, and Stephen Cox, recently appointed State Infrastructure and Broadband Administrator.

“It was great to learn about the important things happening at WHIN,” said Holtrey. “We were especially impressed by the Tarana technology that WHIN has deployed and will stay in close touch with their innovative approach to rural broadband and their neutral host model.”

For more information on WHIN’s broadband initiatives, go to WHIN.org/Broadband

SOURCES: Alivia Roberts, Marketing and Communications Manager, Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN): Alivia@whin.org.

ABOUT WHIN: WHIN is an innovative nonprofit organization devoted to making the 10-county Wabash Heartland region of north-central Indiana the global epicenter of digital agriculture and next-generation manufacturing empowered by smart IoT technology.