Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Friday a $100 million project to improve broadband access for the state’s rural residents.
The initiative, which is being branded as Next Level Broadband program, is part of a broader $1 billion infrastructure initiative announced by the governor’s office in September. The $100 million dedication represents the largest single broadband investment in the state’s history, according to Holcomb’s office.
“The internet is just as essential to Indiana’s prosperity today as highways were a century ago,” Holcomb said in a press release. “By expanding access to affordable broadband, we’ll ensure more Hoosiers can use this business and personal necessity.”
The program will be overseen by the Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The state Department of Transportation will distribute funding and provide technical support.
Each broadband provider can apply for up to $5 million of the funding to provide connectivity to currently underserved areas. Providers are required to provide a 20 percent match to the funding and connectivity must be at download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and upload rates of 1 megabit per second. The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as a connection boasting download speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and uploads of at least 3 Mbps.
Approximately 17 percent — or 1.1 million — of the state’s 6.6 million residents are currently underserved by the state’s broadband providers, according to BroadbandNow, a website that ranks internet service providers. It ranks Indiana as the 32nd-most connected state.
According to a broadband availability map from the Crouch’s office, broadband is especially sparse in the state’s rural regions, including the counties of Howard, Tipton and Miami. As many as 93,000 Hoosiers are completely without internet access, according an analysis by Purdue University agricultural economists.
Providers will begin building after the program’s funding application deadline ends April 5.