A new project to finance and install widespread fiber-optic Internet services to the Greater Lafayette area was unveiled at West Lafayette City Hall Monday night.
The fiber optics, which would be installed by Metronet, would be funded via creating a tax increment financing district in Tippecanoe County. The proposal was open to the public and about 30 people attended.
Metronet president Steve Biggerstaff said this project would make Internet service providers more competitive and would “create a whole new economic development infrastructure” for the Greater Lafayette area.
The initial tax increment financed bond of the project is estimated to be around $4 to $6 million. The entire project would cost $40 to $60 million, which Metronet investors would be responsible for, over a span of 15 to 20 years. The district cannot have tax increment status for more than 20 years, according to Indiana state law.
Biggerstaff said taxpayers would not be held liable for these costs.
“The bond does not finance the project,” Biggerstaff said. “Investors do.”
Biggerstaff said they will “build over existing infrastructure” to eliminate services such as dial-up or DSL and to attract residents and businesses that want to be in a more “future-proof” community.
“This cable allows for over 1 gigabyte of speed,” Biggerstaff said. “With this we could have expanded video services and better abilities for telecommuting.”
Larry Oates, head of the West Lafayette redevelopment commission for this project, said this project has good potential for streamlining the pockets of fiber networks that already exist in the Greater Lafayette area.
“This project could be a great economic development tool,” Oates said. “It is up to the businesses and residents who live here to decide what to do with it. We are just facilitating their potential.”
However, there was some confusion on the way the project was to be funded. Members who attended questioned how tax increment financing works.
Linda Eales, who serves on the West Lafayette public library board, said she was concerned coming into the meeting but became more optimistic as more questions were asked.
“I am feeling better, but I want to see more details come out,” Eales said. “It is still early.”
The West Lafayette redevelopment commission will vote on the resolution Jan. 17. Then the City Council will meet on Feb. 6, when they will vote on the proposal.