Regional civic and business leaders gathered Friday at the Saint Joseph-Marshall County line to launch construction of the much needed high speed, high capacity broadband communications infrastructure linking Plymouth and South Bend. Groundbreaking was marked with a ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, May 2, at U.S. 31 and Tyler Road near Lakeville.
The $2.5 million project will extend Metronet’s dark fiber network from Ireland Road and U.S. 31 in South Bend, along the U.S. 31 corridor and Michigan Road in Marshall County and into and around Plymouth. The extension will add more than 30 miles of high-speed, high capacity fiber optic cable and connect Marshall County and Plymouth directly to the existing Metronet network in St. Joseph County.
Construction will continue through summer with the first subscribers expected to be connected by September.
The expansion is the result of regional cooperation for economic development between governmental officials in Plymouth, Marshall County and St. Joseph County, with the support of business leaders from Hoosier Racing Tire and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. In a public-private partnership, Plymouth, Marshall County and St. Joseph County are funding most of the installation of underground conduit that will house the cable, while Metronet pays to install, monitor and maintain the fiber.
Lack of broadband access has become critical in Marshall County. In arguing for public support of the project, Hoosier Racing Tire said limited capacity in communications between its facilities was impacting production and the medical center said more capacity was needed to support growth at its Plymouth campus.
With existing broadband in Marshall County at capacity, the Metronet expansion will create new economic development opportunities by giving existing businesses access to the latest communications, cloud computing and data storage technologies. In addition, broadband access is increasingly identified as essential to attracting new business and industrial development.
“Businesses and entrepreneurs in Marshall County will now have increased bandwidth capabilities that will allow them to conduct business at much higher levels,” said Kevin Overmyer, Marshall County commissioner. “Our public and private-sector funding partners have provided a technology unique in rural Indiana that will have a positive economic development impact.”