Indiana could gain nearly $12 billion in economic benefits if broadband were deployed in the rural areas of the state.
(Paoli, Ind.) - Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch today joined Indiana electric cooperative leaders and community and industry partners from southern Indiana to discuss broadband initiatives. The group discussed the impact cooperatives have on closing the rural digital divide, the different ways cooperatives are working to provide this essential service and the stories of how it's impacting their communities.
"It's more evident now than ever how fast, reliable internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity for modern life," Crouch said. "Several Indiana cooperatives are taking significant steps to advance the availability of affordable and reliable high-speed internet in their communities, and I'm thrilled to hear the stories about how it's improving the quality of life of Hoosiers.”
Participants in the roundtable included representatives from five of Indiana’s electric cooperatives across southern Indiana, including representatives from Jackson County REMC, Orange County REMC, Southeastern Indiana REMC, Southern Indiana Power, and Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC, along with community and partner organizations including SEI Communications, Smithville, Jackson County Council, Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Greene County Economic Development Corporation and Orange County Economic Development Partnership.
"We're thankful for the support from the state and the opportunity to share Indiana cooperatives' broadband stories with Lt. Gov. Crouch," said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. "Today's conversation showed how focused these electric cooperatives and community partners are on improving the overall economic health and quality of life in the communities they serve."
Lt. Gov. Crouch and other state officials discussed the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, designed to provide funds for deploying broadband infrastructure to provide eligible broadband service to unserved end users, including households, businesses and community anchor institutions such as schools and health clinics across the state. Indiana will invest $270 million toward improving broadband access and adoption in the state through this program.
A 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. Closing the rural digital divide would allow underserved or unserved areas 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 also 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.