We know the first word you probably don’t associate with fiber is “sexy.” But as our fearless leader Jim Turner said in a meeting recently, “Fiber is sexy right now.” Not only is this the kind of attitude we love about fiber, but he’s also right! Fiber broadband has received an immense amount of attention this year, especially legislatively. As we look toward 2019, let’s reflect on what we saw at the federal, state, and local levels for fiber in Indiana in 2018.
You may recall the flurry of debates around net neutrality earlier this year. While there are many political and economic viewpoints about net neutrality, there’s no denying it was a major story in the fiber industry in 2018. The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules took effect in June and continues to play out in various ways, in both businesses and in the legislative arena.
Opinions vary on net neutrality, and those will continue to shift as the repeal takes hold. Regardless, the FCC is making a big impact right here in Indiana. On August 31, 2018, Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced that the FCC awarded more than $29 million in funding over the next ten years to increase broadband speeds for 24,530 locations throughout the state. This means that previously underserved areas will receive reliable, highspeed internet – allowing for continued or increased economic growth.
We’re passionate about shrinking the digital divide in Indiana. If you are familiar with our blog, you know 35 percent of Americans lack access to high-speed broadband internet because they live in rural communities. In 2018, we saw renewed efforts from our elected officials to help bridge that gap and make high-speed broadband accessible to all. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced plans for the state to spend $1 billion in infrastructure projects, including $100 million on broadband to rural communities. Additionally, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch also announced that Scott Rudd will serve as the state’s new director of broadband opportunities. Rudd’s role will include working closely with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to find ways that local farmers and farm businesses can keep up with advancing technology and assist the agriculture industry in Indiana.
You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t everything you already mentioned local?” Essentially, yes. All these points tie back to one another to impact fiber in Indiana. To get even more local, we should look at House bill 1065. Passed in March, HB1065 “authorizes the office of community and rural affairs to award grants to qualified broadband providers in connection with qualified broadband projects involving the deployment of infrastructure to provide qualified broadband service in unserved areas in Indiana.” This means that local municipalities are authorized to decide who earns grants in order to lay fiber in their area.
When you think about HB1065 in conjunction with a recent study from Purdue that says communities can get $4 back for every $1 they invest in fiber broadband, Hoosier communities are positioned to make huge changes with fiber broadband. The power to connect communities is in the hands of local governments that can help end the digital divide. The winners here are Hoosier citizens who will be more connected than ever to high-speed broadband no matter where in the state they live.
This just scratches the surface of everything happening in the fiber broadband world right now. Locally, in our state, and across the country, we’ll continue to see innovations to better connect our world.
Interested in exploring what Intelligent Fiber Network can do for your business? Contact us, and let’s do something powerful together.