By Ann Marie Shambaugh
A new high-speed internet provider is hoping to become available for Zionsville residents, and the town is looking at a unique financing method to make it happen.
Evansville-based Metro FiberNet offers internet, television and other communication services through fiber optic technology. Its representatives have been working with Town officials for approximately a year to work out a plan to fund the capital intensive installation of an estimated 300 to 400 miles of fiber optic lines throughout Zionsville.
The Zionsville Town Council is considering an ordinance to issue $1.5 million in Indiana Economic Development Revenue Bonds to support Metro FiberNet’s project. The fiber optic lines would be designated as a Tax Increment Financing zone, and the TIF funds generated through their use would be used to repay the bond.
“There’s actually no cash transferred, rather the bond is given to Metro FiberNet as an incentive as they put capital into the ground in the sense of fiber,” said Richard Starkey, the Town’s bond counsel. “It generates increment in its use as they pay the taxes to pay back the bond that MetroNet now holds.”
AT&T and Google already offer fiber optic service in Zionsville, so Metro FiberNet would initially focus on urban areas that are not yet served by those companies. If the plan is approved, installation is expected to begin in the spring and last 12 to 18 months.
Metro FiberNet spokesman Steve Biggerstaff said fiber optic technology is only available in about 8 percent of the nation, making places that have it more desirable. He said that the company expects the technology to continue to grow in popularity as consumers use more devices for more purposes.
“Our demand for quality and clearness in pictures and quickness and speed is going to continue to drive it,” he said, adding that Metro FiberNet is currently available for about 155,000 homes but expects to serve 500,000 in two years.
The Zionsville Plan Commission approved a declaratory resolution Jan. 17 outlining the TIF zone and an economic development plan for it. The Zionsville Town Council will get its second look at the bond ordinance at its Feb. 6 meeting.