Inside INdiana Business

$270M program begins to help rural Indiana homes, businesses connect to internet

(WISH File Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs has launched a program designed to provide greater access to reliable broadband internet.

The $270 million Indiana Connectivity Program, which was approved this year by the Indiana General Assembly, allows homeowners and business owners that lack internet or have unreliable service to apply for better connections. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch says the program will help Hoosiers in rural parts of the state where providers typically don’t provide access.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Crouch said broadband providers typically determine the areas to which they wanted to provide connections.

“This Indiana Connectivity Program empowers Hoosiers who can go to our portal or they can call our toll-free number and find out if they have connection, which they should know, but also they can tell us what their speed is and if they’re under 25/3, we will be able to go in and provide them better speed,” said Crouch. “What will happen, then, is we will, starting today for the next three months, collect those addresses and at the end of the three months and bundle them geographically. It’ll allow us to…go to the providers and contract with them to provide service.”

To be eligible for the program, a location must either have no access to internet, or access to download speeds less then 25 Mbps and upload speeds less than 3 Mbps. The Office of Community and Rural Affairs says, however, that inputting location information does not guarantee access to an extension of service.

Crouch says it is important to give residents and business owners the ability to obtain access to broadband instead of having to rely on the providers to hopefully come to their area.

“The providers are going to look at where the best economic return on investment is for them and we know that that means they look at those areas that are densely populated because those are the connections they can make and then get a return on their investment,” said Crouch. “This actually allows us to help to be able to connect those Hoosiers that maybe are in areas that aren’t economically feasible to the provider but nonetheless, these are Hoosiers that need to be connected.”

Homeowners and business owners looking to participate in the program can go to the Next Level Connections portal and enter their address and information. They can also call the Indiana Broadband Connect Center during business hours at 833-639-8522.

After the initial 90-day submission process, providers will have 60 days to bid for contracts to provide the service for those chosen to receive connections. Once the contracts are awarded, providers will have nine months to complete their projects.

“The last year and a half has shined a light on the severe importance of having everyone connected,” Crouch said. “This program is a path to bring service to households and businesses that are in internet darkness or have speeds that are not meeting the demands on our students who are eLearning or our workforce teleworking.”

Crouch the program will continue until the entire $270 million allocation has been spent, at which point the Office of Community and Rural Affairs will seek additional funding from the Indiana General Assembly.

You can learn more about the Indiana Connectivity Program by clicking here.

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