SHIPSHEWANA — Just two weeks after telling Shipshewana officials a proposed high-speed internet connection to the community was unlikely to happen, LigTel Communications engineers reversed course and announced the Ligonier-based communications firm will be bringing a high-speed fiberoptic connection to customers in Shipshewana starting next spring.
That was just the news Shipshewana Town Manager Bob Shanahan was hoping to hear.
Shipshewana officials have made it no secret the town sees high-speed internet as one of the key ingredients to its plans for future growth and development.
“It’s good news. We’re very pleased. If you don’t have high-speed internet, you’re never going to encourage people and companies from the outside to come in,” Shanahan said. “We can’t grow without it. We’ve entered into a very technical age and if you can’t offer that to residential and industrial prospects you have, they’ll just go elsewhere.”
So what prompted LigTel’s change of heart? A recently completed third-party study showing the proposed plan was economically feasible, said Randy Mead, CEO and general manager of LigTel Communications.
“When we first looked at what it might cost to bring high-speed service to Shipshewana, we just kind of put a number at it, our internal engineer just put a number at it,” Mead said. “When we really started having discussions with the city, we hired an outside engineer to really put a pencil to it, and design a system. We also changed the route how we would get that, and helped reduce some of the costs. Once we put that together with the new design created by the outside engineer, we were able to determine that is was something that would be feasible for us to do.”
Mead said his company’s original cost estimate of almost $4 million was reduced by about half in the new study.
In addition, Mead said LigTel is hoping to pick up new customers on the route to Shipshewana, helping it expand its customer base. Also, LigTel will be expanding its services outside of Shipshewana, making it possible for even more people to sign up for high-speed internet service.
“We decided to expand beyond Shipshewana’s town limits, meaning we have a chance to pick up more customers, making it more feasible for us to do this kind of project,” he explained.
Once the new fiber network is in place, Mead said customers might be surprised
“Right now, there are several companies available there, most of that copper DSL service. People are getting speeds of about 10 or 20 Mbps,” he said. “By bringing fiber to Shipshewana, we’re going to be able to offer up to 1 (gigabit) service to Shipshewana. Our minimum package will be 50 Mbps, and we will offer packages of 100 Mbps, 250 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gig to the residents and businesses of Shipshewana.”
Once the main lines are installed in town, crews will build branch lines off those main lines into neighborhoods and business districts. Mead said LigTel’s plan calls for the company to run several main fiber lines into Shipshewana, making the system redundant. That, he explained, would provide home and business owners with a more reliable network and provide better overall service for customers. LigTel’s goal is to sign up about 500 or 600 new customers. Mead said basic fiber service will cost about $55.
In addition, fiber is distributed differently than DSL and cable modem internet systems, meaning each customer isn’t sharing bandwidth with his or her neighbor.
Howe businessman and web services company owner Keith James who runs Indigo Web Services and services clients and customers on the west side of LaGrange County said bringing fiber into Shipshewana will be a game-changer for homeowners and businesses there.
“This is huge,” James explained. “This is really great for Shipshewana.”
Mead said James’s enthusiasm isn’t unwarranted.
Once the fiber connection to Shipshewana is completed, Mead said that opens the door to more conversations about bringing high-speed fiber service to other communities in LaGrange County.
“Two years down the road, LaGrange is on our radar, for sure,” Mead added. “A lot of in Indiana, a lot of the independents, we see the need in rural, so we’re investing in rural where a lot of big guys are not.”