From the Indiana House Republicans:
Governor Eric Holcomb recently signed into law legislation supported by State Representatives Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) and Jeff Ellington (R-Bloomington) to prioritize broadband access for students, schools and rural clinics.
Borders said rural communities throughout the state struggle to get quality access to broadband and high speed internet. Currently, Indiana’s infrastructure plan includes the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, which is available to supply reliable and affordable broadband service to areas of the state without good internet connection through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Under this legislation, OCRA must make it a priority to deploy these grants to unserved areas most in need first.
“Especially in the last year, we’ve seen how large the gaps in broadband access really are,” Borders said. “Getting our students, schools and hospital clinics priority access is the first step in closing this digital divide.”
The new law creates a reverse auction for students who can self-report a lack of educational broadband service through a portal on the OCRA website. Ellington said the broadband company that can provide service to the student’s household for the lowest amount of money will be awarded the Next Level Connections grant.
“The disparity in broadband availability is apparent, as many Hoosiers struggle to find reliable access to complete simple tasks like paying bills online,” Ellington said. “This law is progress toward connecting our rural communities to the quality internet they need.”
A new voucher program will also be created through the law to help schools and clinics cover the cost of obtaining better internet speeds and higher quality connection.
To stay up-to-date on legislation being considered for new laws by the governor, visit in.gov/gov/newsroom/2021-bill-watch.