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Indiana's Lt. Gov. Touts Broadband Expansion to Rural Counties

Published by the Muncie Star Press on February 20, 2019 
by Corey Ohlenkamp

MUNCIE, Ind. – Speaking to the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch touted state efforts to improve infrastructure including Hoosiers' access to broadband in an attempt to spur statewide economic growth.

The effort will focus on underserved areas in rural Indiana where providers argue it’s cost-prohibitive to provide high speed internet access.

“Broadband is the enabling infrastructure for our innovation economy,” Crouch said.

Crouch said that infrastructure such as bridges and roadways are about moving goods, but investment in broadband allows Hoosiers to be connected across the state and internationally.

A Purdue University study, cited by Crouch in the State’s rationale for investing, stated that as of June 2017, 14.1 percent of residents or about 913,000 people did not have access to broadband internet.

Purdue’s dataset looked at the number of Hoosiers where providers advertised at least 25 Megabits per second download speeds and at least 3 Megabits per second upload.

The study excluded satellite connection, which covers the entire state, because expense, data caps and service interruptions make it an unreliable form of data connectivity. Multiple counties, especially in the southwest portion of the state rely primarily on satellite for data connection.

That leaves varying levels of connected Hoosiers.

According to BroadbandNow, a policy group dedicated to better access to broadband, around 93 percent of Delaware and Henry county residents had access to broadband with speeds of 25 Megabits per second.

Other East Central Indiana counties were significantly lower. Blackford only had 84 percent and Jay County had 79 percent. Randolph County came in at 65 percent.

“That ability to be connected via the internet is extremely important,” Crouch said. “Rural Indiana and the Hoosiers who call it home should have equal access to that technology… to that quality of life that people in more urban areas do."

The broadband infrastructure upgrade is part of the governor’s plan for 2019, which earmarked a $1 billion investment for The Next Level Connections program. A $100 million investment in broadband statewide will expand services in rural Indiana.

Grant money earmarked by the state would specifically help these areas get better internet infrastructure.

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Indiana @GovHolcomb's Next Level Agenda for 2019 includes action to bridge the Digital Divide.
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