Published by Dubois County Herald on June 24, 2019
By Candy Neal
State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, has been a strong proponent of getting broadband service to rural areas.
“When you have as many unserved rural areas that I’ve got in my district,” he said, “it’s an area that definitely that needs some help.”
His ongoing efforts earned him the 2019 Indiana Legislator of the Year award from the Indiana Broadband and Technology Association. He also won the award in 2017.
The recent award acknowledged the work Messmer, 56, did this past legislative session to set up the mechanisms to help companies that will install broadband services in rural areas that are either unserved or underserved.
That includes establishing the parameters for funding $100 million in grants companies can receive to help pay for the work. It also includes setting a policy that the Indiana Department of Transportation will treat broadband companies like other utilities and not charge them fees for installing fiber lines in state road rights of way.
“This is the biggest step that we’ve taken to promote that and helping solve the problem,” Messmer said.
The grant-funding bill officially goes into effect July 1. But Gov. Eric Holcomb has fronted the first $25 million now, using INDOT revenue from the Northern Toll Road, so that the process of grant applications can start now.
“They’re in the process now of analyzing the grant requests,” Messmer said.
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