Next Level Connections Grant to Benefit Jackson County Customers

Next Level Connections Grant to Benefit Jackson County Customers

A second round of state funding will benefit nearly 300 customers of Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corp. in Jennings County.

Two grants totaling $431,382 from the second round of Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program were announced Thursday by Gov. Eric Holcomb. When coupled with 20% local matches, the projects have a total cost of $1,078,953.

The grants are part of the more than $51 million in grants for 50 broadband infrastructure expansion projects across the state. In total, more $79 million has been awarded in rounds 1 and 2.

“Lt. Gov. (Suzanne) Crouch and I have been dedicated to improving internet access for years, and now, COVID has only made the need for affordable, dependable broadband more apparent,” Holcomb said.

The second funding round will provide broadband infrastructure to more than 10,590 homes and commercial locations across 32 counties.

The first Jackson County REMC project will serve 163 residential and business members in the Hayden and Scipio areas. That $239,309 grant requires a local match of $598,273.

The second grant will serve 118 locations in North Vernon Township. That $192,273 grant requires a local match of $480,680.

Mark McKinney, CEO of Jackson County REMC, said a{span}ll members, both homes and businesses within the awarded areas, will have access to the cooperative’s {/span}fiber-optic smart grid network with broadband speeds up to 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gig.

The program allows broadband service providers and utility cooperatives to apply for up to $5 million to expand service to unserved areas if they provide at least a 20% match. Unserved areas are those without at least one telecommunication provider offering at least 10 mbps download and 1 mbps upload. Proposed projects must provide a minimum level of service at actual speeds of 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload.

Jackson County REMC’s not-for-profit high-speed broadband internet division, Jackson County REMC Fiber, created in 2017, is making a broadband internet connection to all 20,000 members in its service territory. The project involves installing fiber-optic line on existing REMC utility poles and then to the homes of members

McKinney said currently more than 1,300 miles of cable has been installed and 19 substations are connected. More than 4,200 members also are connected.

Mainline construction is projected to be completed by the end of 2021 with install to the home continuing into 2022, he said.

/ Expansion