Bringing high speed internet to rural Indiana is something has received a lot of focus and discussion, but not a lot of action. Last week Indiana’s state government started taking action on this important issue. Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch appointed Scott Rudd as the first state Director of Broadband Opportunities. Rudd told HAT his first task will be to convene a Broadband summit, “That will pull together all the stakeholders to start to tackle the challenge of providing high speed broadband service to rural communities.”
Crouch said that Rudd understands the important impact broadband access has on the quality of life for Hoosiers who are able to access it, “He understands that rural broadband can provide opportunities for employment, help others continue their education, and offer more effective and timely communication.”
Estimates on the cost of bringing high-speed service to rural areas has been astronomical. Rudd says it is going to take a combination of resources to begin to make this happen, “It is going to take a combination of any and all agencies, providers, funders, private, public, all of the above to solve this issue that is so important to Indiana.”
Rudd says initially there will be funding from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. A block grant program will be awarded to 5 communities in the state to develop plans to improve service in their areas. Interested communities must complete a survey – open Friday, Aug. 17 through Tuesday, Sept. 4 – to be considered for the planning grant. The communities will then form a plan that will work on the current broadband conditions, creating a long term vision based on their needs and identifying solutions for achieving that vision. Crouch said, in addition, the state legislature will be asked for additional appropriations for broadband development.
As for a time table when farmers could actually see some improvement in service in their area, Rudd was vague, “I think we will get the parties together at this summit and begin to move forward as quickly as possible.”
Rudd most recently operated as the town manager and economic development director for the town of Nashville, IN. There he oversaw seven town commissions, three task forces, directed four departments, and served as the town’s public information officer over the course of the last four years. He founded the Brown County Broadband Task Force to help steer the county’s broadband strategy and secured more than $20 million in private broadband investments to expand access to more than 7,500 homes and businesses in the area.
“Scott has made significant strides in increasing broadband access to Brown County, which is a rural community that thrives on their tourism industry,” Crouch said. “His experience and dedication will help transform the broadband accessibility in our state, and I am eager for him to bring in his perspective and experience to help our rural communities.”
Crouch said Rudd will be working closely with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to work with farmers and farm businesses within the communities on ways to make sure they are keeping up with the advancing technology that will keep the agriculture industry thriving. Rudd will also be working closely with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to collaborate with communities and identify the best ways to attract reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet to rural Indiana.
“I look forward to seeing Scott take the progress he has made in Brown County and transitioning that work to the entire state of Indiana,” Crouch said. “Broadband plays a vital role in our economic growth, and I am excited to see what he can do to help take our rural communities to the Next Level.”
Rudd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University and resides in Nashville, IN, with his wife Erika and their son Carter.