Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch joined Indiana electric cooperative leaders and community and industry partners from central Indiana to discuss broadband initiatives on July 20th in Martinsville. The group discussed the impact cooperatives have on closing the rural digital divide and the different ways cooperatives are working to provide this essential service to their communities.
“As I meet with Hoosiers around the state, I'm seeing firsthand how the need for affordable, dependable broadband is more critical now than ever before,” Crouch said. “It's great to hear how Indiana cooperatives and partners are taking significant steps toward bridging the digital divide and bringing greater opportunities for all Hoosiers."
Lt. Gov. Crouch and other state officials discussed the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, designed to provide funds for deploying broadband infrastructure to provide eligible broadband service to unserved end users, including households, businesses, and community anchor institutions such as schools and health clinics across the state. Indiana will invest $270 million toward improving broadband access and adoption in the state through this program.
cooperatives are responding to the need to provide fast, reliable internet access and are making significant investments and partnerships to bring this vital service to the Hoosiers they serve,” said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Today’s discussion was a great example of how Indiana’s electric cooperatives collaborate, partner, and find ways to put the interest of Hoosiers first.”
Participants in the roundtable included representatives from Boone REMC, Hendricks Power Cooperative, Henry County REMC, NineStar Connect, and South Central Indiana REMC, along with partner and community organizations including Endeavor Communications and the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, and a farm owner and member of Hendricks Power Cooperative.
A study conducted by the Purdue Center for Regional Development estimated Indiana could gain nearly $12 billion in economic benefits if broadband were deployed in the rural areas of the state. The report further estimated a return of nearly $4 to the local economy for every dollar spent on the necessary infrastructure. Closing the rural digital divide would allow underserved or unserved areas Hoosiers the same opportunities that exist in connected communities:
• Modern Health Care. Barriers that limit access to advances in modern health care in medically underserved areas of the state would be diminished. Rural Hoosiers would be able to take advantage of prompt access to specialists and expanded monitoring and treatment options.
• Modern Education. Technology would be available to keep rural students from falling behind their urban peers and would ultimately improve student performance. Adult learners would also have access to distance education options that could improve job skills and opportunities for personal growth.
• Economic Development. The path around barriers hindering rural economic development begins with closing the rural digital divide. With quality internet service, local small businesses can enter a global marketplace, agricultural and business income opportunities expand, rural areas will become attractive homes for skilled employees and their families, and more.