Whitley County residents still seeking access to high speed internet after council vote fails

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 6:08 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - People in Whitley County have been searching for a solution to gain better access to high speed internet for more than a year now, and an attempt to fund the project failed at county council.

The process of finding a solution for the resident’s internet speeds has been about as slow as dial-up itself.

“I have called everyone I can, there is no one that provides broadband high speed internet to my address,” Sarah Haag said. “The work I do requires high speed internet for upload, especially when you deal with video, audio or photography.”

Haag says she moved to the area about a year ago and she ran into a problem she wasn’t expecting: access to high speed internet. She says she needs broadband internet in order to do her job. She began attending her county council meetings to see if anyone could help. That’s where Haag says she met Whitley County Commissioner Theresa Baysinger who had already been working on a plan.

“During Covid we discovered all the ways people need internet in Whitley County,” Baysinger said. “We have people trying to work from home, kids trying to do e-learning.”

For more than a year, Baysinger has been working with a company called ‘Surf Internet’ to bring fiber internet infrastructure to the county. However, the problem is county leaders don’t have a solution to pay for the project. There’s been a proposal in the Whitley County Council to use $1.7 million in funds from the American Rescue Act Plan, but the government body that controls those purse strings can’t seem to find an agreement.

In fact, at Tuesday morning’s board meeting members voted 3-3 on the proposal. One member was absent so the plan failed. Those voting against the plan cited reasons like not having enough funds, not wanting to subsidize private business and wanting to learn more about the options.

Baysinger says they’ll have to go back to the drawing board. She says they’ll be starting with an internet committee formed under the Economic Development Corporation to continue discussing this issue. Baysinger will serve on the committee along with other county leaders.

Haag says she just wants a solution sooner rather than later for the sake of her livelihood.

“I intend to keep holding them accountable for this issue, the only thing we can do is keep speaking up,” Haag said.