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Long-awaited Internet proposal made

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday morning passed an additional appropriation of $5 million to the county council for a partnership with Mainstream Fiber Networks to lay the foundation to provide high-speed Internet for the majority of Harrison County residents.
Lisa Long, Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County president and Connect Harrison County secretary, made the request after a presentation detailing the plan.
‘It’s absolutely essential,’ Long said of high-speed Internet, which is considered a utility, not a luxury. ‘The service is needed to sustain our community and to grow.’
Long said it has been a long eight years that she has been working to bring the service to Harrison County, and it has been even longer (15-plus years) for others involved.
Mainstream is in the process of completing the Corydon area portion of the project, which connects the Harrison County Government facilities.
All buildings are now connected except for the highway garage south of town.
The phase II plan will build a main line of 115 miles of fiber-optic backbone that the county, or a designated not-for-profit agency, will own and operate.
From the main line, a secondary build will occur, adjoining roads up to one mile in either direction.
The installation of service for customers will commence when the initial build out is 25 percent complete.
Combined with the initial phase in and around Corydon, Mainstream will have the potential to serve 85 percent of all addresses in the county if the $5 million is approved by the county council. The total cost of the project is $15 million. The county’s $5 million will pay for the installation of the main line or backbone of the system.
‘I’ve heard about high-speed Internet for a long time,’ Commissioner Kenny Saulman said. ‘To have someone come offer to invest that kind of money, I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward and help.’
Long said the project would go a long way to keeping or attracting residents in the county who have high-paying, work-from-home jobs.
The availability of high-speed Internet also will make a home more attractive. She said deals have fallen through with realtors when it is learned high-speed Internet service is unavailable.
‘We have people that have to go sit in the parking lot at McDonald’s to get what they need for an online master’s program,’ she said. ‘I think it’s a worthwhile investment.’
Commissioner Charlie Crawford said he visited about 4,000 homes in the fall and the biggest issue with most residents was the lack of high-speed Internet.
‘It’s time to bring it to the county,’ he said, with the help of other towns or entities.
The board then unanimously agreed to send the request to the county council to a round of a applause from the audience.
To sign up for potential service, residents can visit msfiber.servicezones.net/harrison to show interest.
‘I encourage you to do that, if you haven’t already,’ Long said.
Mainstream will provide service to the areas showing the most interest first.
Notice will be sent to all clients in a service area who have signed up when a zone is ready.
Residential service will come in three levels and prices ranges: $59.95 per month, $79.95 and $99.95 depending on megabytes per second download and upload speed (25/10, 50/20 or 100/30, respectively).
Each customer will receive a month of free service for each year of contracted service. Mainstream also will offer affordable pricing for poverty-level clients.
Mainstream also offers small-business packages with phone lines.
In other business, Harrison County Community Foundation officials reported the community fund has now surpassed $90 million after an 8.45 percent gain in 2016 and a strong start to this year.
‘Post-election, the stock market has done very well,’ Bill Thomas, finance chair, said. ‘We crossed a new milestone.’
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon (moved from Monday because of Presidents Day).

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