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Grant Program Would Enable More Broadband Connections Across Indiana

Sean MacEntee

Telecommunications companies are beginning a six-year push to make broadband connections more widely available in Indiana.

Four-percent of Indiana homes and businesses, mostly in rural areas in the southeast part of the state, don't have broadband.

Three telecom providers will receive $51-million a year from a new federal grant program earmarked for bringing broadband to hard-to-reach areas. They'll wire up 135,000 homes and businesses by 2020. That'll cut the number of homes and businesses without broadband roughly in half.

Frontier Communications spokesman Bob Stewart says the companies have already begun the work.

“Most of us received the deposits from the FCC in our bank accounts a couple weeks ago,” Stewart says. “By the end of 2017, 40-percent of the locations have to be built; of the 135,000 for Indiana, somewhere just short of 50,000.”

Stewart says the program sets a strict timetable for completing the promised work, with another 25,000 or so in each of the next three years.

“Basically, there’s a cascading list that says, ‘If I don’t make it, I don’t get more money until I fix the ones I’ve got done.’ So, it starts to delay the funding process. The more I don’t make it, the more money the federal government withholds,” Stewart says.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has established a process to certify communities as broadband-ready -- Rushville and Nashville are the first to win the state's seal of approval.

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