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Hebron-based telecommunications company NITCO expects to complete work this month on a gigabit-capable fiber network for businesses in the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage.

Officials from NITCO and Ameriplex developer Holladay Properties held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project last week.

NITCO has been positioning itself as a local alternative to national internet service providers as it expands. The 80-year-old company, originally the Northwestern Indiana Telephone Co., is running an ad campaign boasting it is "'Infinitely' Friendlier" as it extends high-speed broadband internet service in Lake and Porter counties.

NITCO President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Long has also spoken against relaxation of net neutrality rules that would allow internet service providers to sell customer's browsing data.

"If you're a paying subscriber and you buy 10 MB, you can do with it whatever you want," he said. Long said NITCO won't collect and sell customer's browsing history, which Congress and the administration recently allowed.

"It makes me angry," he said. "You're buying a pipe, and we don't need to know what goes through it. With your browsing history, it's like that old song lyric, 'it ain't nobody's business but your own.'"

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While NITCO has been a phone company for 80 years, it currently sees most of its growth by expanding internet service, Long said. The company, which employs 90 workers, serves around 14,000 customers in Porter, Jasper Newton and Lake counties. NITCO covers about 1,310 square miles of Northwest Indiana, with fiber line running from Lakes of the Four Seasons down through Hebron, DeMotte, Roselawn, and Mt. Ayr.

NITCO is currently investing to install new fiber lines that would extend further into Lake County and northern Porter County, including to AmeriPlex at the Port, in order to offer high speed broadband, voice, and video to the 50 companies that operate there.

NITCO also expects to complete installation on a fiber network in the town of Chesterton next year.

As it lays more fiber, NITCO is going up against major internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier. The technology website Ars Technica estimates that Comcast has a 47.5 percent market share nationally for 25 Mbps internet service. The company reported a $2.5 billion profit in the first quarter, a jump of 20.2 percent, that included an increase in revenue per customer of 2.6 percent.

Long isn't daunted by the scope and resources of NITCO's competitors.

"We want to be a regional player, to be the Region's internet service provider. If the money comes in here, it stays in the community and doesn't go to Philadelphia. If you call our customer service, you might end up talking to your neighbor. You see our employees at the grocery store. We're all local."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.