Broadband Access 'Local Economic Development Issue'
As the state rolls out its $100 million Next Level Broadband Program, the director of broadband opportunities says he’s already seeing cities, towns and regions collaborating “in ways that we don’t see typically.” Scott Rudd says the lack of high speed internet access in some areas of the state has created a sense of urgency. “Folks from children to seniors to businesses to government, quite frankly are struggling with this issue,” said Rudd. “We are seeing community members, businesses, educators and health care coming together to drive this issue and drive investment to their individual communities, because at the end of the day, this is a local economic development issue.”
In an interview on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Rudd talked about the need for the state’s largest single investment in broadband to date.
A study from Purdue University's Center for Regional Development, released in August, suggested Indiana could generate a $12 billion economic impact over 20 years with substantial investment in expanding broadband access in rural areas. The report, commissioned by Indiana Electric Cooperatives and Tipmont REMC, estimated every dollar invested in broadband returns nearly $4 to the economy.
The Next Level Broadband Program is being overseen by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The Indiana Department of Transportation will administer grants and also provide technical support.
The state will offer matching grants for providers to bring broadband services with a minimum of 100/10 Mbps to areas of the state lacking service. Broadband providers may apply for up to $5 million in the first round of funding to expand services to areas not already served, if they provide at least a 20-percent match.