INDIANAPOLIS - The chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Intelligent Fiber Network says recently-awarded rural broadband grants demonstrate the state's commitment to bringing high-speed internet access to the entire state. Governor Eric Holcomb earlier this month presented more than $22 million in funding through the Next Level Broadband program for 11 infrastructure expansion projects. Ten of those projects are being undertaken by IFN member companies.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Jim Turner said the grants will have the most immediate impact on the communities the companies are serving.

"Many of these grants were awarded in very rural parts of the state that would be very hard to justify economically expanding or building broadband out to these communities because they're just so rural and there are so few customers to absorb that investment dollar," said Turner. "So the state investing its dollars through the broadband grant program really helps these communities gain broadband access that they otherwise likely wouldn't get in the absence of the support."

When the grants were announced, the state said the funding would help establish broadband infrastructure in more than 4,800 homes and commercial locations in 12 counties. Turner says a person's access to the internet should not depend on where you live or work.

"What this decision by the state and these awards by the state reflect, in my opinion, is a decision at the highest levels of the state of Indiana that is sort of a ratification of that view, which is we want to make sure that if you live and you work in small, rural communities, you have the same access to high-speed internet service, you have the same ability to live and work that people who live in municipal or suburban areas have. So I think it's just a very good message from the state of Indiana to these communities."

Turner says the grant recipients are ready to get started on the expansion. "Receiving the grant money is the start and now they've got to roll up their sleeves and go about the business of actually getting the broadband out to these communities that are the subject of the broadband grant. So I think they're excited and they're eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work."

In addition to sending a message to the state, Turner says the grant funding also sends a message to the entire country that Indiana wants to be a leader in broadband access for even the most rural communities.