Indiana has long been a leader when it comes to encouraging the private sector to make investments that result in more and better high-speed Internet options. It began nearly 10 years ago, when the Legislature passed, and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed, a bill that deregulated the telecommunications industry in Indiana. Since that time, the industry has invested billions of dollars to bring the latest technologies here.
Now, the Legislature has taken another important step forward. During the 2015 session, I authored two bills, House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1101 and HEA 1318, aimed at further improving Indiana’s environment for the growth of broadband –or, high-speed– Internet in our state, particularly in our rural areas.
HEA 1101 drew from the work of Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann’s Rural Broadband Working Group and creates the Broadband Ready Communities Development Center within the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). As a new, valuable tool, the center encourages broadband development throughout the state, serves as an information resource and certifies local communities as being “Broadband Ready”, a designation modeled after Indiana’s “Shovel Ready” economic development site certification.
Broadband Ready Community certification sends a signal to telecommunications industry that a community has taken steps to reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure investment; its requirements include eliminating application and permit fees and establishing a single point of contact for all telecommunications projects. While investment in such high-speed infrastructure is not guaranteed to follow certification, reducing the regulatory obstacles that deter investment is a key step toward creating an environment ripe for new broadband investment.
This initiative just launched in July, but already the Town of Nashville and the City of Rushville have become certified. You can learn more about the program, which is managed by the IEDC, by visiting the IEDC’s website, www.iedc.in.gov.
HEA 1318 will also help speed up the deployment of additional high-speed Internet services in Indiana for small and large telecommunications companies alike. This was accomplished by creating a more streamlined process for permitting wireless telecommunications facilities at the local government level.
We made these changes to Indiana state law because updating our state’s telecom policies is important to maintaining a welcoming business climate in Indiana. It allows providers to deploy next-generation technology and supports the expansion of robust broadband networks. Improved access to broadband enables local businesses to compete at the highest levels, farmers to reinvent their business practices, educators to improve outcomes and consumers to enjoy higher speeds and better quality service.
This legislation will put our state in an even better position to boost the availability of high-speed Internet access in Indiana, particularly in rural areas, and bring robust investment in telecommunications infrastructure.
Rep. Koch (R-Bedford) represents all of Brown County, most of Lawrence County and parts of Monroe, Jackson and Johnson counties. Rep. Koch is Chairman of the House Utilities, Energy & Telecommunications Committee.