Chesterton, Indiana, plans to deploy a dark fiber network to serve municipal facilities, anchor institutions, and local businesses. Like their neighbor to the south, Valparaiso, they hope to boost economic development, improve local services, and help the community compete in the race to draw in new industries. “We learned if we didn’t have that in the ground ready to go, we couldn’t compete,” said Town Manager Bernie Doyle.
Taking It One Step At A Time
The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in late July as part of Phase II of the project christened the Chesterton Fiber Optic Network (CFON). The community is looking for an entity to operate and maintain, provide last mile connectivity, and perform other services typical of an Operator. Late last year, the community released the Phase I Request for Information (RFI), for a firm to design the fiber backbone of approximately 15 miles. They chose a company in March. The final phase will seek out a firm to construct the network.
Chesterton wants Gigabit connectivity for municipal, public safety, education, and other public buildings. The network must also provide similar services to community anchor institutions and local businesses; the community wants to attract high-tech, bio-medical, and financial firms to diversify its local economy.
The community's priorities include retaining ownership, increasing economic development, and deploying an expandable network. Chesterton wants to have the entire project lit and offering services by June 1, 2017.
Future Funds, Present Projects
Like Valparaiso, Chesterton is banking on tomorrow's dollars to finance today’s investment. The city will use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund the project. TIF will permit the city to finance the network with future gains in property or sales tax expected to from the geographic area that will obtain the redevelopment or infrastructure project. They will be able to borrow the funds, build the network, then use the funds generated from the network to pay off the debt.
The contract for the design cost just under $125,000 and, because the project is divided into several phases, the community will still need to determine remaining costs. The city will seek out an Operator who will agree to a revenue sharing arrangement, much like the agreement between Ting and Westminster, Maryland.
Local School District Participating
Duneland School District has an aerial fiber-optic network in place; the district uses Comcast for Internet access. According to the Phase I RFP, the existing network lacks redundancy and the school wants a network with better scalability. In February, the School Board agreed to participate in the project. The design RFP required any consultant to try to integrate the school districts needs into the overall design.
On The Shores of Lake Michigan
Located along the southern bank of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore runs for approximately 25 miles along the shore in Chesterton. The area, known for its ecological diversity, draws vacationers who want to enjoy camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and cross-country skiing. Bird watching is popular due to the high number of species in that live in or travel through the area.
In addition to the industries that benefit from recreational visitors, Chesterton’s 13,000 inhabitants work primarily in the areas of educational services, health care, social assistance, and manufacturing. The town is about 8.6 square miles in Porter County.
This is Chesterton’s second investment in its fiber future. In 2012, the city partnered with Porter County on a utility extension project that included installing fiber-optic conduit to a commercial area on the edge of town.
Photo, licensed under Wikimedia Commons, is of the Indiana Dunes Bathhouse and Pavilion in Chesterton and courtesy of JoeyBLS.