The ability to get on the internet remains an issue for many rural Hoosiers. As many students are e-learning to start the school year around Indiana, some have to find Wi-Fi hotspots at McDonald’s, the library, or on school buses that have been deployed with mobile hotspots.
The issue is on the radar of Republican Senator Mike Braun and he says discussions are happening on Capitol Hill, but that state governments need to be a leader in this arena, which Indiana is doing.
“And we at least have a strong state government that will replenish itself more quickly than many places because we believe in balanced budgets, rainy day funds. I’d love to see agriculture and our state government tackle rural broadband. I think it’d be a lot quicker; it’d be a lot less expensive, and to me that’s where I’d like to do it. Not the federal government where we’re borrowing every penny and where they’re slow and costly.”
Governor Eric Holcomb says Indiana is out in front of other states on rural broadband.
“I remember sitting with some of my gubernatorial cohorts at a conference and I said that we are pledging 100 million state dollars, in partnership with private sector providers and co-ops, but we’re putting in $100 million into this. Our skin, and then providers will do the same. We’ve gone through about $30 million of that.”
Holcomb says funding rural broadband will be an ongoing effort.
“This is becoming increasingly more of a necessity. It’s just like our road network. And so, we’re going to continue to find ways, creative ways, to continue to partner with local communities, our federal partners, and the state will always be, obviously, the big player in the game.”
Holcomb mentioned that they have spent $30 million thus far on improving broadband infrastructure. He expects an announcement on Next Level Connections round 2 grant recipients any day now.