Study: Indiana a Regional Broadband Leader

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Ball State University's Digital Policy Institute says Indiana is in position to remain a regional "broadband overachiever." A new study released by the group suggests several steps the state can take to capitalize, including easing regulations, developing more uniform statewide policies and creating a rural broadband advisory center. Senior Fellow Barry Umansky says commercial carriers have pumped nearly $5 billion into broadband infrastructure in recent years. January 22, 2015

News Release

MUNCIE, Ind. - More Hoosier households than ever are on the verge of having broadband access to Internet, thanks to nearly $5 billion commercial carriers have pumped into infrastructure development over nine years and the easing of state regulations.

Those efforts, coupled with ongoing work to expand fiber optic cable reach, mean Indiana is swiftly becoming a regional standard-bearer in the ongoing push by state and federal officials to ensure those who live in rural and urban areas alike have reliable and dependable Internet access. Nearly 44 percent of Hoosier households are "passed by fiber" meaning the infrastructure required by a commercial provider is already in place. That number is more than four times greater than the next closest neighbor.

The information comes from research completed by the Digital Policy Institute, a group founded in 2004 at Ball State focusing on issues relevant to digital media. The findings are detailed in the group's "Indiana Rural Broadband Report 2015," released today.

"There has been such a high level of capital investment that the Hoosier State is now considered an overachiever in the area of broadband deployment," said Robert Yadon, director of the Digital Policy Institute. Yadon said outside capital investment, federally funded projects made possible through 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and state tax incentives have fueled the growth. "This is unprecedented commitment and speaks to the powerful, technology-rich future Indiana is building," he said.

Despite the strong gains, work remains. The institute's report shows that, not surprisingly, there are still areas of the state that have severely restricted access.

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 12.4 percent of rural Hoosiers are without broadband access.

"Connecting rural towns and other areas of limited service to the growing broadband highway remains a priority," said Barry Umansky, communications attorney and senior fellow for the institute. While extending fiber optic service to every rural home is economically unfeasible at this time, the state has options.

"Some combination of existing digital technology, including DSL, cable, fixed and mobile broadband wireless, and satellite, likely will provide an economically viable and critically needed solution for rural consumers," Umansky said.

That need for solutions continues to grow, as evidenced by remarks made by President Barack Obama in Tuesday's State of the Union address, as well as through the president’s recent trip to Iowa promoting his plan to expand universal access to broadband. Obama said during that visit that it's not about providing a luxury but rather a necessity that will help small, local businesses compete in a global economy.

"This presidential focus on broadband expansion underscores the national level of interest and importance of broadband to our communities, our economy and our technology ecosystem," Umansky said. "Fortunately, Indiana is poised to take advantage of these initiatives. The roadmap for legislative reform, coupled with state and local economic incentives and assistance, is clear. In the end, only time will tell if Indiana will remain a broadband overachiever."

The report is available at: http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/centersandinstitutes/digitalpolicy

Source: Ball State University