We all know by now that high-speed internet is the backbone of 21st-century growth. In February 2020 Governor Holcomb issued a $100 million dollar grant as part of his “Next Level Indiana” plan resulting in the development of the “Office of Broadband Opportunities.” While the funding has been made available for rural broadband, the funds appear to be held up in negotiations and those improvements have not extended to Steuben and LaGrange counties.
Access is important for, among other things:
Rural broadband with slow internet speeds makes it difficult, if not impossible, to support telehealth options. Studies have shown that telehealth improves life expectancy and healthcare outcomes, but in order for rural communities to take advantage of those benefits, they must be equipped with proper broadband infrastructure.
The pandemic made clear the divide between the “haves and the have-nots” with regards to internet access. Students across the area were in many cases unable to access e-learning programs leaving them at a disadvantage.
Remote employment opportunities
Broadband enables individuals to telecommute, greatly expanding employment opportunities. The workforce in our rural areas is being left behind as more and more employers allow for remote work, our infrastructure must be expanded to accommodate these opportunities.
Pairing technology with agriculture is the wave of the future. Using technology and analytics in agriculture allows farmers to “see real-time information on soil conditions, water availability, fertility needs, and pest effects. During a harvest, farmers can track crop yields and quality. This information allows farmers to make better decisions and optimize land use.”
Having access to high-speed broadband helps bring local businesses to global markets, increases area job growth, allows users to stay in touch with friends and family, increases economic options for area youth, and allows businesses to run more efficiently.
Having AFFORDABLE broadband access is also key. It does no good to provide rural broadband if lower-income residents cannot afford the service. Subsidies should be provided for those who are unable to afford service.
Rural broadband is a lifeline for remote communities. The lack of access to the internet for rural households in Steuben and LaGrange counties is restricting growth in the area, putting our children behind their peers, and must be made a priority. As your Representative, I will prioritize the implementation of rural broadband.