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BUFFALO — Within the next four years, internet customers in Buffalo, Pulaski and Star City will be flying down the information superhighway.

LightStream officials announced it has begun a $19 million project to install more than 350 miles of fiber-optic line connecting Buffalo, Pulaski and Star City to boost internet capabilities in those areas.

The project will affect some 2,500 residents.

“We’re excited,” said Tim Gilford, LightStream’s director of marketing and sales. “There are so many more economic opportunities that exist with broadband.”

Gilford said the $19 million is part of a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to put toward rural broadband initiatives

Mike McCormick, LightStream’s chairman of the board, said residents in Buffalo, Pulaski and Star City will receive fiber optic-based services that include gigabit (1,000 Mbps, or megabits per second) internet and crystal-clear voice once the project is complete.

“It will be more than what people will know what to do with,” Gilford said.

Those areas currently have service that allows up to 15 Mbps.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our fiber optic network and ultimately deliver fiber-based broadband to our most rural residents,” he said. “This is a significant network upgrade that helps us achieve our goal of 100 percent fiber throughout our service area.

“Fiber is coming to all of our cooperative members. We’re very excited for them and the possibilities that come with this project.”

Brent Gillum, LightStream’s president and CEO, said the cooperative has been listening to its customers’ wants and needs, and the $19 million investment will satisfy that.

“Fiber-based internet is reliable and future-proof but also provides increased security and value,” Gillum said. “We believe that northern Indiana should have access to the same high-speed, fiber-optic broadband and communications solutions as those in metropolitan areas, and we’re committed to delivering exactly that.”

The project is divided into four phases during the 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 calendar years. In the coming months, LightStream will notify customers about their phase year. Construction times will vary by phase; however, upgraded service availability is expected by the end of each respective calendar year.

Company officials said that during the past six years, LightStream’s fiber-internet investments have increased network performance and allowed the company to more efficiently serve customers in Buffalo, Pulaski, Monticello, Star City and Winamac.

“More people are streaming video every day and, coupled with 4K-video, bandwidth demands are increasing,” Gillum said. “LightStream is well positioned to meet and exceed our customers’ bandwidth needs. The economic and social opportunities are endless.”