Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday two Indiana electric cooperatives and their partner organizations will receive nearly $7 million in grants from the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program. The program, in its first phase of awards, is designed to foster broadband infrastructure investment in unserved areas of the state.
“Several of Indiana’s electric cooperatives are responding to this need and are making significant investments to bring this essential service to the Hoosiers they serve,” said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “These grants help cooperatives as they continue to find ways to close the rural digital divide.”
The two Indiana electric cooperatives and their partners received a total of $6,944,558 in this phase of the grant program include:
- Southern Indiana Power and Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc.: $6,500,000 serving Perry and Spencer Counties.
- Tipmont REMC: $444,558 serving northwestern Tippecanoe County.
A 2018 study conducted by the Purdue Center for Regional Development estimated Indiana could gain nearly $12 billion in economic benefits if broadband were deployed in the rural areas of the state. The report further estimated a return of nearly $4 to the local economy for every dollar spent on the necessary infrastructure.
“Our research clearly shows the state’s return on this investment is significant, and we are grateful for the support of Gov. Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Crouch and the Indiana legislature,” said Gasstrom. “It is fundamentally important to us to improve the overall economic health and quality of life in the communities we serve.”
Closing the rural digital divide would allow underserved or unserved areas Hoosiers the same opportunities that exist in connect communities:
- Modern Health Care. Barriers that limit access to advances in modern health care in medically-underserved areas of the state would be diminished. Rural Hoosiers would be able to take advantage of prompt access to specialists and expanded monitoring and treatment options.
- Modern Education. Technology would be available to keep rural students from falling behind their urban peers and would ultimately improve student performance. Adult learners would also have access to distance education options that could improve job skills and opportunities for personal growth.
- Economic Development. The path around barriers hindering rural economic development begins with closing the rural digital divide. With quality internet service, local small businesses can enter a global marketplace, agricultural and business income opportunities expand, rural areas will become attractive homes for skilled employees and their families, and more.