Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced last week eight Indiana electric cooperatives and their partner organizations will receive more than $36 million in grants from the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program. The program, in its second phase of awards, is designed to foster broadband infrastructure investment in unserved areas of the state.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how important access to quality broadband is for modern life,” said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “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. We are so thankful to the State of Indiana for the support as our cooperatives continue to find ways to close the rural digital divide.”
The seven Indiana electric cooperatives and their partners that received $36,136,914 in this phase of the grant program include:
- Henry County REMC and Central Indiana Communications: $361,711 for a project in Henry County.
- Hendricks Power Cooperative and Endeavor Communications: $851,085 for a project in Hendricks County.
- Jackson County REMC: $431,582 for projects in Jennings County.
- JCREMC: $68,193 for a project in Morgan County.
- Orange County REMC: $2,193,401 for projects in Dubois, Lawrence, Orange and Washington Counties.
- South Central Indiana REMC: $2,756,580 for projects in Brown, Monroe and Owen Counties.
- Southeastern Indiana REMC and SEI Communications: $12,550,000 for projects in Dearborn, Franklin, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland Counties.
- Tipmont REMC: $16,924,362 for projects in Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Tippecanoe and White Counties.
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.
“Gov. Holcomb and I have long placed a priority on access to reliable broadband services, and the impact of COVID-19 has only strengthened our commitment to connecting Hoosiers,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “We are proud of our partnership with organizations like Indiana Electric Cooperatives and their members as we work together to help bridge the digital divide.”
Closing the rural digital divide would allow underserved or unserved Hoosiers the same opportunities that exist in connected 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 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.