State Grant Supports Broadband Expansion in Indiana

Funding from Indiana's Next Level Broadband program will support a Mainstream Fiber Networks LLC project to provide broadband to about 2,084 unserved households and 389 unserved businesses in Floyd County.

by Brooke McAfee, The Evening News and The Tribune / November 22, 2019

(TNS) — Many unserved Floyd County, Ind., households and businesses will soon have access to broadband with the help of a state grant.

Funding from Indiana's Next Level Broadband program will support a Mainstream Fiber Networks, LLC project to provide broadband to about 2,084 unserved households and 389 unserved businesses in Floyd County. Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday that the program is awarding $6.3 million for three broadband infrastructure projects across the state.

The state grant will provide more than $2 million for the Floyd County project, and a local match of more than $2.1 million from both Mainstream Fiber Networks and Floyd County will cover the cost of more than $4.1 million. In the first round of funding through the $100 million Next Level Broadband program, there has been a total of $28.4 million awarded for 14 broadband projects throughout the state, according to a press release from the governor's office.

The $6.3 million closes the first round of funding, which will support broadband infrastructure in more than 11,300 homes and commercial locations in 18 counties. The program's initial $22.1 million in funding was announced in August.

“In the 21st century, high quality, affordable broadband is essential to the success of Hoosiers and our state,” Holcomb said in the press release. “Economic development, the health of our citizens and our quality of life will be directly impacted by expanding broadband to these unserved areas.”

Justin Tackett, director of Floyd County Building & Development Services, said there is a major need for broadband in several areas of the county, and many residents have shared their personal experiences of not having internet access. The broadband project will provide internet access to Franklin Township (located north of Horseshoe Southern Indiana), parts of Greenville (northern Greenville toward Washington County and southwest toward Harrison County) and part of Lafayette Township.

He is excited about the funding from the state and Mainstream Fiber Networks. Many people rely on internet access for work and school, he said, and the broadband expansion will help put residents on a more level playing field with more urban areas.

"We get calls all the time about internet access, and it's such an important part of everyday life for people," Tackett said.

Floyd County is paying about a third of the project's cost at about $700,000, he said, and Mainstream Fiber Networks is paying about two-thirds of the cost.

Floyd County Commissioner John Schellenberger said the broadband project is a "landmark" for the county, and he expects it will have positive economic and educational effects by helping more people work at home and allowing students to use the internet without having to go to the library.

"It's a great day for Floyd County," he said.

Unserved areas supported by the Next Level Broadband program include those without at least one telecommunication provider offering internet fast enough to provide basic services (at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload). According to the press release, the program is the largest individual state investment in broadband, and service providers could apply for up to $5 million per project if they provided at least a 20 percent match.

The providers will give unserved areas service levels of up to one-gigabyte download and upload service, which is the highest speed available on the market, according to the press release.

“This funding gives us the ability to help residents obtain what has become a necessary part of a high quality of life,” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said in the press release. “We are thrilled to be able to extend the grant’s first round with these three projects, which will take these 10 counties out of internet darkness and on to the Next Level.”

Next Level Broadband is part of the governor's $1 billion Next Level Connections Infrastructure program. In addition to expanding broadband service in rural areas, the program is also accelerating the completion of major highway projects, adding more nonstop flights and expanding rail projects in northwest Indiana.

“In our area, some homes and businesses can’t access broadband, even though it is available a short distance away,” State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said. “This investment will help close those gaps and provide the connectivity that is increasingly essential for business, education and health. It will improve quality of life and help support home values and business investment.”

©2019 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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