Terre Haute to add 40 WiFi hot spots

Howard Greninger, The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
·3 min read

Apr. 26—The Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety on Monday approved a measure to add 40 WiFi fiber optic spots throughout the city for use by students in the Vigo County School Corp.

"Originally, we were going to use EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) funds to do this across two years, but we didn't get in the budget last year, since the budget had to be advertised in August," Mayor Duke Bennett told the board. " But since we have access to American Rescue Plan funds now, we will use those funds this year to pay for that."

The city will pay $543,580 to add 40 locations in the city.

Terre Haute will receive $38.23 million from American Rescue Plan Act

Rob Haworth, superintendent of the Vigo County School Corp., told the board the school corporation received more than $1.39 million in 2020 from the Indiana Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) to equip buses and establish community WiFi access spots. The grant pays for WiFi service for two years.

In December, after reaching an agreement to make a modification that includes oversight ability, the Vigo County Council approved more than $2.84 million to help expand that broadband into the county. The county is paying for the project through its Economic Development Income Tax.

Terre Haute-based technology firm Joink Inc. is installing fiber optic cable into township fire houses, community centers and parks. When those facilities are not open, a Wi-Fi transmitter can provide an umbrella signal into nearby parking lots for 24/7 access.

"It is allowing us to set up contact points throughout our county and from what we have seen is being accessed by our students," Haworth said. The school corporation is also using buses to get to remote areas.

"Here, what we are looking at is how do we establish some stationary locations that will be in place beyond when a school bus can be there," Haworth told the board. "We also believe that this lends itself to not just promoting academic abilities for our students but also greater economic opportunities for our entire community as we look to bring broadband to Vigo County and west central Indiana," Haworth said.

Josh Zuerner, CEO and President of Joink, told the board that 40 sites will be added in the city and the county has added 44, so there will be 84 sites in the city and county. There are also an additional 90 sites that connect to 30 Vigo County school buildings. In all, there will be 281 sites when completed, he said.

"The (GEER) grant also provided funding for another 107 locations and our goal there is to install those in existing Joink customers that already have Joink fiber," Zuerner said. "The grant is paying for operating cost of the network and equipment, but the grant does not pay for the special construction cost to extend the fiber" to more locations, which requires the city funding.

Some of the added locations in the city will include nine fire department stations, the 14th and Chestnut Community Center, 15 park and nature areas such as Maple Avenue Nature Park, Herz-Rose Park, Deming Park, Fairbanks Park, Dobbs Park, Sheridan Park, Twigg Rest Area, as well as sites such as city golf courses, Terre Town Baseball League, Community Theatre of Terre Haute, Salvation Army, Girl Scouts, Bethany House, Ryves Youth Center, Vigo County Public Library and Chances And Services for Youth.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.