MARKLE, Ind. (WANE) — Imagine life without the internet. News, shopping, research, entertainment, completing homework – all out of reach.

That is the reality for residents living in rural areas across Indiana and the United States. But soon residents in rural Allen, Huntington, Wabash, and Wells counties will be able to have high-speed internet access where they live.

It’s part of a new initiative by Heartland REMC.

“It’s a need in the rural areas and no one else will do it,” Heartland REMC CEO Robert Pearson said. “We at Heartland being a cooperative and servicing those members felt like if no one else is going to do it then we need to because high-speed internet in today’s society is crucial.”

Heartland Rural Electric Membership Corporation, or Heartland REMC, is a not-for-profit electric cooperative that serves 15,000 homes and businesses across nine counties in north-central Indiana. Back in 2017, members decided to look into what it would take to bring internet to their customers.

Over the next three years, crews will lay more than 3,000 miles of fiber-optic wire. The cables will reach and serve more than 20,000 residents in parts of southwest Allen, northern Wells, Huntington and Wabash counties.

This is a map that shows the number of customers that are interested in the new high-speed internet service. Courtesy of Heartland REMC

Crews will start laying line in northern Wells County. From there, crews will move on to Wabash County and then back to Huntington County. As the lines move into areas, residents will receive notice of the service.

The company borrowed money to fund the project. In addition, Heartland REMC received several multi-million dollar 10-year tax abatements from Huntington, Wabash, and Wells counties for the project.

The total amount for the project is estimated to be $51 million.

“It’s going to be a long payback period,” Pearson said, “but the one commitment we had to make and figure out how to do is to make sure it wasn’t put on the backs of our ratepayers. So no rates will ever be raised because of this. We feel like … there are enough people that want this in order to have the support to pay it back.”

Though Heartland REMC will be constructing the lines for the services, they are partnering with TWN Communications to provide and run the new internet service.

But if you’re not a Heartland REMC member, you can still receive the service. Everyone in the county that does not have high-speed internet can get it as long as the lines are in their area.

To learn more about Heartland, sign up for high-speed internet or to see proposed rates, click here.