The biggest obstacle to building out broadband internet access to rural communities is money. However, studies show the tremendous benefits of providing that access. One Purdue University study says Indiana alone could reap $12 billion over a 20-year period.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the cost of deploying broadband nationwide to rural, underserved communities will cost billions of dollars.
“The federal government frankly doesn’t have enough money to do all this itself. What we’re going to try to learn is how to optimize and leverage federal incentives where there’s not an economic reason to do this, get people who are in that business that know how to do it, and to do the most of it.”
Perdue adds that money has been appropriated by Congress to begin that process and applications for that money are being accepted now. It’s called the ReConnect Program.
“There’s a about $600 million we’re going to deploy. About $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan grant combinations, and $200 million in grant combinations to prove the concept of how we can deploy broadband across the country.”
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently announced his Next Level Connections infrastructure program providing up to $100 million to invest in broadband. Senator Todd Young told Hoosier Ag Today that the program is great, but as you just heard it will take a lot more than that to launch broadband full-scale. He says it’s time to scale up what’s happening across the country, and his spot on the Commerce Committee will help him push for just that.
“The president’s been advocating an infrastructure package that would benefit disproportionately a state like Indiana that has set aside some of our own money. We’d reduce the regulatory burden so that each federal dollar goes a little further to build out broadband, and now that I’m a member of elected leadership in the U. S. Senate, I’ll have a seat at the table as we develop our agenda. I’m going to be pressing hard for an infrastructure package this Congress.”
In part 2 tomorrow, you’ll hear from one Southern Indiana co-op CEO that has taken advantage of some of the USDA funds available to start building out broadband to its rural customer base covering parts of 10 counties.