In today's world, the internet plays a vital part in our day-to-day lives. Whether using the web to look up directions, connect with loved ones or shop online, it can be difficult to navigate without it. However, many Hoosiers across the state are lacking adequate internet service, creating a “digital divide” among those with access and those without. This session, I am supporting legislation to ensure broadband reaches more underserved areas of our state.
In order for our rural communities to thrive, they need access to affordable and reliable broadband services. Currently, available internet options for these areas are slower and more expensive than services offered to urban and suburban customers. To help close the digital divide, the 2021 budget plan includes $250 million in rural broadband expansion grants, which would be offered to providers and used to strengthen access to reliable and affordable internet service. This is a wise allocation of state funding, with a return of between $3 and $4 for every dollar invested in broadband access. With this, we could see more jobs created and stronger economic growth.
Having a high-speed connection affects workers communicating online and children engaging in remote learning. It also directly influences the economy of a small town, allowing businesses to compete on a larger scale. COVID-19 highlighted the fact that we need greater accessibility and reliable service to ensure our families and businesses can stay connected to the rest of the world. When the pandemic forced us to move most things online, rural areas suffered and faced more challenges because of the lack of internet access. Although we are slowly seeing more people get back to their normal routines, many employers see benefits to expanding online.
These investments would help connect Hoosiers to more opportunities and resources in order to succeed in today's digitally driven world, especially as we continue overcoming disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Access to reliable internet is as important as ever, which is why expanding rural broadband continues to be a priority for Indiana lawmakers. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more about our efforts to expand rural broadband.
State Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) represents House District 53,
which includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties.
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