The COVID-19 pandemic showed the world what was important and lacking. A major issue in Indiana is reliable broadband internet access. Nine bills addressing broadband have been introduced in this legislative session.
While the state has been trying to increase access with grants for rural connection projects for a few years, lawmakers are considering including more money for broadband in the next state budget.
Rep. Ann Vermillion (R-Marion) says it’s a bipartisan issue, which she says means it will be easier to get through the General Assembly in some fashion.
“From March ‘til July, we realized how broken the state was. It affected healthcare, telehealth, my kids that were trying to get done in school. It affected small businesses – every business with their employees trying to get work-at-home. It affected our farmers. And oddly, it’s been affecting our farmers for years and years.”
Also speaking at a virtual Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce “legislative update,” Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) says access is even slow in some populous, affluent counties – like his home in northern Hamilton County.
“I didn’t have internet the last two days. And I’ve got college kids on both sides of me and our upload/download speeds are terrible. And, you know, my own school district where I was had to wire buses and put them in several hot areas. And I want to point out, this is Hamilton County. Everybody likes to beat up on us about having all the other luxuries.”
Money for broadband expansion was included in Governor Eric Holcomb’s budget priorities for this year.