A local internet provider has announced its next expansion phase, expanding into eastern and southern Johnson County.
JCFiber, a subsidiary of JCREMC, announced Tuesday the location of its fourth zone of fiber internet expansion to underserved areas within JCREMC’s electric service territory. Zone 4 follows the eastern Johnson County Line and encompasses an area to the east, southeast and south of Franklin, company officials say.
Right now, the mainline construction of Zone 4 is underway. Residents who live within the zone should be able to sign up during the first and second quarters of 2023, and eligible residents will be notified by postcard when they are eligible to sign up, according to a JCFiber news release.
The Zone 4 expansion is part of JCFiber’s four-year plan, which was announced in 2020, to expand broadband internet service to residents who don’t currently have true high-speed internet access through another provider. This plan has been boosted following a $1 million grant of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds given to JCFiber by Johnson County.
“We are excited to continue expanding the best available technology to members of our community who don’t currently have access to true high-speed internet,” said John Sturm, JCFiber President and JCREMC CEO. “Fiber-to-the-home can be life-changing for rural residents who have previously struggled to work, learn, stream and game from home.”
ARPA is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that delivered direct relief to Americans and distributed billions to states to respond to the pandemic and to give to cities, towns and counties to respond to the pandemic. Indiana officials distributed $1.28 billion to communities, including about $30.7 million for Johnson County.
The money can be used for a variety of purposes, including responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, countering negative economic impacts of the emergency, providing premium pay to employees, off-setting lost government revenue, and upgrading water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. There also is a provision approved in January that allows for up to $10 million in discretionary funds to be used for the provision of government services. It is very broad and gives the county some leeway for some projects, officials say.
Earlier this year, JCFiber came to the county with a request for $2 million to expand its service areas to give under-served county residents more internet options. The county ultimately decided to split the funds into two separate $1 million payments, the second of which is under discussion for later this year.
The investment from local officials has played an integral role in helping the company keep momentum with the expansion, Sturm said in a statement.
“One of our priorities is affordability. This investment from the county and any future investments or grants will help us complete this expansion and lower our prices as soon as possible, which has always been our goal,” he said.
JCFiber operates on a “no-gimmick” pricing model. Monthly prices are stated for all customers, and the company’s only price changes have been reductions that were immediately extended to all customers, company officials said.
The company also recently reduced its service contract period to 12 months.
JCFiber also participates in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program to offer discounted broadband internet to eligible customers, officials said.
JCFiber’s other expansion zones, Zones 1-3, are nearing completion. All residents in Zone 1 are eligible to sign up for service. In Zone 2, 90% are eligible, and in Zone 3, 40%. All residents in Zones 2 and 3 will be eligible to sign up by the end of 2022, officials said.
Future expansion zones are expected to be announced in 2023.