VALPARAISO | The city could be the first in Northwest Indiana to get a new system for phone, Internet and TV service that will lower customers' costs even if they don't sign up with the provider.
Steve Biggerstaff, of Metronet, presented the company's plans at a Redevelopment Commission meeting last week. The Evansville, Ind.-based fiber-optic network provider wants to provide the Metronet service to every home and business in Valparaiso.
Biggerstaff is hoping for the commission's support for a new kind of tax increment financing to help finance the project.
Metronet already provides service to about a dozen Indiana communities and is considering several others. If the plan gets a preliminary vote of support from the Valparaiso commission, the company would do a feasibility study of the city looking at the potential market, the cost, a comparison of using overhead or underground lines and how many customers would be needed to support it.
Commission Executive Director Stuart Summers said fiber-optic service is available to a few specific users in the city, such as Valparaiso University and Task Force Tips, while Metronet would be available to everyone. Residents would have access to more than 200 TV channels, the highest Internet speed available and unlimited long-distance calling.
If Metronet decides to proceed with the project, cable and satellite subscribers could see their bills go down in response to the competition from the fiber-optic service, which is cheaper, Biggerstaff said. The service also could be a tool for the city to attract new businesses that no other area community can offer.
The key could be a TIF arrangement that would only include the actual fiber network lines.
Summers said investors are expected to cover 85 to 90 percent of the cost of the installation.
Installation would be in the range of $15 million to $20 million, Biggerstaff said. The remaining cost would be covered by bonds, which Metronet would buy and which would be paid off by the TIF tax revenue.
The city initially would benefit from a 5 percent franchise fee and from the property taxes on a structure that would serve as the local control center.
If Metronet decides to proceed in Valparaiso, it would not begin installation for a year or so, and service would not be available for another year. The Redevelopment Commission is expected to vote whether to endorse the offer at its Oct. 10 meeting.