State Zeroes in on Rural Broadband

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Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann says a beefed-up strategy will help Indiana address the "critically important" issue of rural broadband access. The state's Rural Broadband Working Group has made recommendations including streamlining approval processes and creating a university-based center. Ellspermann says the benefits range from attracting business and talent to helping schools use online classes to make up snow days. Recommendation also include using public funding to build "neutral access points" that any carrier could use.

June 5, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Speaking at the annual meeting of the Indiana Economic Development Association, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann reported on the recommendations of the Rural Broadband Working Group. Several members of the group, which included representatives from service providers, rural interest groups, economic development organizations and government agencies, were on hand for this morning's report.

The Lt. Governor and Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith convened the group to address the lack of high speed broadband in some of Indiana's rural counties. The Lt. Governor noted that this issue had been raised repeatedly during her 92-county Listen and Learn Tour completed shortly after taking office in 2013.

"Access to high speed broadband is critically important for rural Indiana," Lt. Governor Ellspermann noted. "For example, successful agriculture in 2014 relies on important real time data about markets, weather, new products and practices. Large or small business in our rural communities cannot operate effectively without increased broadband speeds. Personal computers, tablets and smartphones have become important consumer tools for shopping, healthcare, employment and communicating. Further, the Indiana Department of Education has approved the use of online classes to make up snow days."

Secretary Smith added, "Whether it's manufacturers reaching their suppliers or customers sending in orders, high-speed broadband is a job creator. When companies consider where to create new jobs, a deciding factor frequently comes down to connectivity. That's why, if we want to really kick start growth in rural Indiana, maximizing broadband service is essential and these recommendations will help us get there."

In six structured problem-solving sessions, the Rural Broadband Working Group identified key obstacles to broadband expansion and then explored reasonable options to overcome them. Key recommendations are to:

1. Streamline permit, zoning and approval processes across counties to facilitate installation of transmission lines.

2. Increase rural broadband adoption to provide more customer density.

3. Identify the most underserved and unserved areas where potential demand exists using accurate mapping and then engaging communities and providers through a RFI process.

4. In least served areas, explore constructing "carrier neutral access points" or "pods" where broadband service would be brought into an area and from which any carrier could extend local service lines.

5. Establish a university-based Rural Broadband Center that would be a neutral single point of applied research, information collection and knowledge dissemination to rural communities.

The Lt. Governor and Secretary of Commerce expressed confidence that action can be taken on some, if not all of these recommendations in the coming months capitalizing on the interest and commitment to success generated through the Working Group process.

The complete report from the Rural Broadband Working Group is available on the Office of the Lt. Governor website at www.lg.in.gov

The Lieutenant Governor manages the following agencies of State government: Indiana Office of Defense Development, Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

For updates from Lt. Governor Ellspermann and the agencies she oversees, please visit www.lg.in.gov.

Source: Office of Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann