silhouette of hand on computer keyboard in front of monitor (Dan Kitwood/Getty)
PHOTO: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Plugging Holes in the Net: Legislators Seek Best Way to Expand Broadband

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana’s trying to expand your access to high-speed broadband, but
legislators are still hashing out the details.

The state has been working to extend broadband into hard-to-reach areas for a while, but the
coronavirus pandemic has brought renewed attention to the issue, with more Hoosiers needing to
do their jobs, go to school, or consult doctors through web connections. Four separate bills
addressing different aspects and approaches for broadband expansion are under consideration in
the House and Senate. That doesn’t include the budget bill, which proposes a quarter-billion
dollars to expand broadband.

The challenge for legislators is to focus that money on areas which don’t have broadband service,
without duplicating federal efforts. They’re discussing a range of ideas to connect as many
Hoosiers as possible.

One proposal would go a house at a time — a state portal would take reports from homes and
businesses who don’t have access, tell the state you need broadband, and the state would take
bids from contractors. Joni Hart with the Indiana Cable and Broadband Association says providers
hear frequently from people who report they’re within a mile of an existing network, close enough
to see the lines, but don’t have access themselves.

Another proposal would give vouchers to people who have networks available but can’t afford them.
Indiana Farm Bureau policy director Katrina Hall says expanding rural broadband is a top priority
for the Farm Bureau, but says broadband access an urban issue as well, especially when it
comes to affordability.


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