FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) -In the next three to five years, 80% to 90% of Indiana will have access to high-quality high-speed broadband Internet.
The goal is part of Senate enacted Act 377 which was passed this session. State Senator Andy Zay (R-Huntington) was one of the authors of the action, saying the target may seem extreme, but the state is “well placed and can not sit still.”
“Governor Holcomb may say he started a good thing, but since we are electing a governor in a few years, I want them to be able to communicate with the Hoosiers, the Midwest and the county that Indiana is connected to,” said Senator Zay. . “Come stay here, come and play here, come worship here, and you will have access to all the tools to do your job, connect with your family, and do what you want to do.”
Senate enacted Act 377 created the Indiana Broadband Connectivity Program. The program establishes a portal that allows Hoosiers who do not have or poor Internet access to warn Office for Community and Rural Affairs that they need broadband access.
The need for better access was highlighted last year as most of the country shut down due to COVID-19. Schools sent students home, businesses began working remotely, and good high-speed internet became more than a wish but a need.
Senator Zay spoke to WANE 15 via Zoom from his home just east of Huntington. During the interview, his internet connection came to a standstill, the image became blurred and stopped on several occasions completely.
“I hesitate to say that this is personal, but we have tainted the internet in my business and at home,” Zay said. “This is how we expand bands from our urban and metropolitan areas, and this next generation will get used to having internet. It really is one of the first boxes to get a check when they are trying to figure out where to work and live. ”
Recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that 49 of Indiana’s 92 counties experienced a decline in population over the past decade, and most were in rural Indiana. Zay says hope is bringing broadband to rural areas, fewer people will choose to leave the area.
The Indiana General Assembly set aside $ 250 million for Next level connections Broadband license program in the budget. Applications for the third round of the program are currently underway, with $ 270 million going to communities to strengthen their broadband infrastructure.
In addition, several telecommunications providers and utilities are also helping to bring internet to the rural parts of Indiana.
Mercury Wireless helps municipalities in the counties of Allen, DeKalb and Whitley, while Lakeland Internet covers a project in Steuben County. Several different REMCs are also working to help expand broadband Internet services.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Zay said. “There are a lot of challenges to put all these things together and not make these investments on top of each other. This is really to be effective with both the dollars we provide as a state and the services they provide to the area. ”
To learn more about the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program and apply for the program Click here.
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