|May 21, 2013 --
Before receiving funding from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), ITS Telecommunications, Inc. had an aging and high-maintenance copper network that was constantly in need of repair. ITS was unable to offer reliable internet services throughout its service area in Indiantown and western Martin County, FL and speeds were not much better than dial-up service. Many people did not have internet service at all and those who did were unable to use it effectively for telecommuting or business services. The town was also suffering from a declining population and was growing increasingly depressed economically.
How Rural Development Helped
In 2007, ITS was awarded an $8.1 million loan through the RUS Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program and was able to use the funding to replace much of its failing infrastructure with fiber and upgraded electronics systems. This loan funded construction of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in parts of ITS’s service area and connection of over 1,000 new customers to broadband services.
Broadband has had a significant impact in the economically depressed Indiantown, FL. The investments in broadband infrastructure by ITS and RUS provided hope to residents of a seemingly failing community. The ITS investment was motivating to the residents and businesses in this rural area. It gave them a sense of pride that their community could still be a leader in technology. Many groups started to look at Indiantown as a resource-rich community that could attract attention. Having fiber to the home increased the value of homes and business parks in the area, and
both builders and developers have advertised this as a key advantage of Indiantown. It has also made the community more attractive to telecommuters and several individuals in the community now run businesses from their homes.
As a result of the availability of new and improved broadband service in the area and an education program about broadband provided by ITS, internet users in the town increased immediately by approximately 25% and some areas grew from around 20% penetration to nearly 75% internet penetration. The internet usage in one retirement community increased by nearly 50%.
Job creation has also been a major benefit of the ITS broadband project. For example, ITS met with a call center in a nearby town and informed them of the newly available fiber in Indiantown. ITS then asked if they would consider hiring some of the unemployed residents in Indiantown as virtual call center employees that could work from home. This was very important as many of poor residents of the community do not have transportation. The call center agreed to do so specifically because of the availability of high speed internet service and they hired several individuals. To make sure these individuals could afford the internet service, ITS gave them the first month free so they didn’t have to pay for broadband access until they got a paycheck from the call center.
Before the broadband network built with RUS support, the county had been paying a national carrier to provide bandwidth and connectivity. When their lease came up, the national provider increased their charges tenfold. That being the case, the county set out to see if they could build their own fiber network. When they discovered that ITS had recently made major fiber upgrades in the area, the county approached ITS and asked if there was a way they could work together to save the county money on this project. As a result, ITS was able to swap some fibers with the county and save them nearly $2,000,000.
The economic impact of the new broadband infrastructure continues. Martin County, the local Business Development Board, the local Economic Council, and several Chambers of Commerce have promoted Indiantown as a great destination for technology and are encouraging business development in Indiantown. In fact, the County Business Development Board has rebranded Indiantown as iTown to promote the development of technology in the community. Many large businesses have been contacted and some are looking at Indiantown as an investment option, including a bio fuel group that has indicated they plan to build in Indiantown because of the availability of high speed broadband access.
The fiber network has also resulted in ITS’s plans to open a near Tier 3 level data center in Indiantown later this year. It will be the only data center in the surrounding three county area. They expect this to draw much commerce into their community, create high paying jobs, and further accelerate the recognition of Indiantown as a technology destination. ITS says: “Being located in South Florida, a highly targeted hurricane area, we believe our RUS-funded fiber will be a hit that will have a major impact on the community. Without RUS funding, none of this would have been possible. Indiantown now has a future.”
For more information on the Telecom Program or any of its success stories, contact Mary Campanola at 202-720-8822 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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