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Getting Connected

Jefferson County to benefit from
high speed Internet services

Collaborative Marketing Project
is behind the push to upgrade service

Debra Maylum
Staff Writer

(January 2005) – Jefferson County, Ind., residents have few options when it comes to finding fast and affordable Internet service. Many area businesses and residents are forced to “make do” with a slow dial-up connection because high-speed Internet is simply not available in their immediate area.
The Collaborative Marketing Project, a collection of community-minded volunteers, has taken on the challenge of obtaining affordable high-speed Internet access for the county as part of expanding local economic development.
The committee organized a panel of local Internet Technology managers to study where the county is in terms of Internet technology infrastructure and how it can move forward. The IT Infrastructure Task Force recently discussed issues involved during the Indiana Main Street Conference, held in Madison in late October.
In looking at the county, the Task Force found that a large setback to bringing high-speed Internet options to the county is the uneven topography of the area. The hills and trees in the county make it difficult to run the cable or fiber-optic lines that would be necessary for high-speed access.
The need for this technology in the county, however, is one that could not be ignored. Jefferson County is lacking a technology that Robert Moore, director of technology for Madison Consolidated Schools, said is becoming integral to our everyday lives, where in less time, people must continually do more.
High-speed Internet would benefit residents who want a faster connection for personal use and for after-hour business use in their homes, however, small business, agriculture and the local economy as a whole would see the greatest benefits of the technology.
Businesses that require a high-speed connection would be able to locate anywhere.
Especially beneficial would be the availability of second story space in downtown Madison for those businesses that do not need storefronts. Businesses that desperately need to update their programs and have not done so due to the fact that the programs require better connections would have that opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, availability of high-speed Internet would attract new businesses to the area, officials say.
In addition, it would make the area attractive to large companies looking to expand to this central location between three large cities but who need to be able to access the larger company network to do daily business.
Internet business is the key to economic opportunity for Jefferson County, said Jeff Garrett, executive director of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. He believes it can take the place of the absent interstates in connecting the area to large business sectors.
Agriculture is another area of business that suffers when high-speed Internet connections are not available. Farming is prevalent in the county and makes a large contribution to our economy. To remain successful in today’s competitive market, a farmer must be able to access information quickly and easily. Today’s farmer needs high-speed Internet access to survive said Ann Grahn, moderator for the IT Infrastructure Task Force. For example, a farmer uses the Internet to watch daily market trends, follow weather conditions, purchase equipment and supplies, and receive satellite images.
The IT Infrastructure Task Force has been working diligently to bring high-speed Internet access to all areas of Jefferson County, and the work has paid off. The committee was successful in gaining significant interest from companies who can bring the needed technology to the area.
Currently in Jefferson County there are several carriers offering high-speed Internet. The problem, however, is that it is only available in small and specific areas. Several companies are working with different technologies to bring high-speed Internet to all areas of the county. One solution in the works is the use of wireless Internet. Wireless is a good option because a signal would be available in areas such as downtown Madison and rural Jefferson County.
SEI Communications currently provides wireless service to Madison’s hilltop and is working to expand into all other areas of the county. Mike Leach, general manager at SEI Communications, said that within six months the company expects to have enough towers up and running to offer wireless high-speed internet to every area in Jefferson County, with exceptions being far and few between.
Many other companies will be offering high-speed service to residents and businesses in Jefferson County in the near future. Cinergy MetroNet will be bringing the service to eleven cities and towns in Indiana, including Madison and Hanover in about two years.
As the technology grows and expands throughout Jefferson and surrounding counties, opportunities will continue to arise. Officials believe that the combination of high-speed technologies expected in the area in the immediate future will not only serve the short-term need of high-speed access but will also put technologies in place that will be necessary to support future economic growth throughout the area.

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