Surf Internet will begin construction on 250 miles of fiber internet in rural northern Indiana in late March.
The Elkhart-based company is investing $3.6 million in the project along with $6 million awarded through Indiana’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program. About 1,500 rural homes will have the opportunity to connect to high-speed internet.
Construction will begin in Elkhart County first, then continue in La Porte and Newton counties later this year.
Surf Internet CEO Gene Crusie said by partnering with the grant program the company can bring high-speed internet to areas that aren't densely populated.
“We are applying for grant subsidies in spread-out areas that would otherwise be financially unfeasible to reach on our own,” Crusie said in a press release. “By partnering with local communities in this way, we can expand our fiber network even further, opening the door for better opportunities in education, business and personal connections.”
In Elkhart County, the project will include the following:
- A redundant loop to Wakarusa from Goshen, which will address an underserved population southwest of Goshen.
- A fiber-optic network along a rural stretch of County Road 28 from County Road 27 in Goshen to just past State Road 13 in Middlebury.
In total, 478 households and 25 other organizations in Elkhart County will have access to high-speed broadband. Some do not have access to the internet now.
“Increasing the fiber and broadband options for Elkhart County continues to be imperative,” said Suzie Weirick, Elkhart County commissioner. “Having continuous investment to improve these connections keeps our communities tied to each other and the world.”
She said the investment gives people living in rural areas a valuable economic tool also.
“Investment in broadband networks in urban and rural areas will make us attractive to all people, as well as position Elkhart County to be a thriving community for residents and businesses,” she said.
In La Porte County, the project will include 953 homes in the communities of Westville, Wanatah, Union Mills, Rolling Prairie and Hanna. The state named La Porte County a Broadband Ready Community in January 2022.
In Newton County, 88 rural households and two businesses near Lake Village will gain access to the service. Newton County also was deemed broadband ready by the state.
Surf Internet’s chief marketing officer said these communities are hungry for faster internet.
“When we launched our community outreach to those residents impacted by the NLC Grant area, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community,” Lana Frank said. “Nearly 70 percent of the households we surveyed indicated a high level of interest for our service.”
Construction in all three counties is scheduled for completion by April 2024.
The state's broadband program has awarded a total of $268 million in grants to 83 of 92 counties in Indiana in three rounds of giving.
“This record-setting investment in broadband is another game-changer for Hoosiers who now, more than ever, need affordable, reliable internet,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “With this third round, we take giant steps in leveling the playing field for our residents regardless of where they choose to live, work or go to school.”
Surf Internet, formerly known as Surf Broadband Solutions, offers high-speed broadband to residential, business, education and municipal customers via fiber networks. It serves 70,000 homes and more than 600 communities, according to its website.
The company also raised $100 million in debt financing from DigitalBridge Credit in February with equity investment from company sponsors Bain Capital and Post Road Group. The funds will go toward fiber networks in the Great Lakes region.