Solving the Internet Crisis in Your Community
Internet is a necessity in today’s world. It is needed to do almost everything: attend school, complete homework, run a business, access doctors and medical care, or even stream a movie with your family.
Unfortunately for many rural Americans, internet access is limited at best. For many, it simply isn’t even an option because there are no companies willing to provide service.
But things are beginning to change. Your electric cooperative recognized this problem and knew it had to help be a part of the solution. Electric cooperatives are leading the way in serving the rural and economically disadvantaged areas in Indiana, those that have the greatest need for broadband.
Electric cooperatives have made real investments into solving the rural broadband problem. Recent state grants are helping electric cooperatives leverage significant amounts of private funding to expand broadband access.
In 2015, only two of Indiana’s 38 electric cooperatives had active broadband projects. By 2020, that number had more than quintupled to 12. Now, only one year later, there are 19 cooperatives with active broadband projects.
Similarly, in 2020, cooperatives had invested $134.5 million into deploying broadband to rural Indiana. One year later, that number more than doubled to $273 million.
In 2020, cooperatives served 17,921 addresses with broadband service and deployed 4,237 miles of fiber to provide that service. One year later, those numbers also doubled. Currently, 31,037 addresses are served, and 8,425 miles of fiber are deployed.
Your local cooperative saw a problem and acted to provide you with the solution. Now, it is working hard every day to make sure you have access to high quality, high speed internet, no matter where you live.
Four Facts About Broadband in Rural America
High-speed internet has become a major focus across rural Indiana. From electric cooperatives and allied rural organizations to the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor and legislators who serve rural areas, finding the financial wherewithal to fund expensive fiber-optic networks into sparsely-populated areas is no longer a quixotic quest. It’s happening.
“Hoosiers need affordable, quality internet regardless of where they live, work or go to school,” Gov. Eric J. Holcomb told Indiana Connection. “Access to broadband brings countless opportunities. And that’s why I’m excited to see key infrastructure projects positively impact economic development, health, agriculture and quality of life.”
Closing the digital divide allows those in under-served or unserved areas the same opportunities that exist in connected communities:
1. Millions of Americans lack broadband. About 34 million Americans don’t have high-speed internet service. Many of these people live in rural, low density areas.
2. Private carriers fear rural costs. There is a huge gap between the benefits to consumers and what a private service provider will earn by deploying broadband in areas with low population density.
3. Broadband backbone eases cooperative entry. A modern electric cooperative requires up-to-the-minute smart communications technology, and that requires a broadband backbone. Such a system would allow the cooperative to communicate with its substations, better oversee power lines to restore or even prevent outages in a timely fashion, and provide smart meters and other advances consumers demand. A broadband backbone also affords cooperatives the opportunity to provide retail high-speed internet, when possible, as it passes fiber-optic cable by members’ homes and businesses. Cooperatives that build a broadband backbone for their electric power system can more economically connect rural areas.
A good partner can help. Many hands lighten the load, and that rings true for rural broadband. While electric cooperatives may have infrastructure in place and brand recognition among consumers in rural areas they serve, the cost to deliver high-speed internet can give many pause. Government loans and loan guarantees and grants for rural broadband can help close the digital divide. Partnerships between cooperatives and private carriers are an economical way to deliver internet service to members.
What’s Your Broadband Story?
Electric cooperatives are finding ways to help close the rural digital divide, providing all Hoosiers the same opportunities.
Affordable and reliable quality internet means life-altering improvements for rural Hoosiers in:
Modern health care including prompt access to specialists, and expanded monitoring and treatment options.
Modern education options so rural students can use technology previously available only to their urban peers. Adult learners will have access to distance education options.
Economic development opportunities mean small businesses in rural areas can enter the global marketplace. And, young families seeking a rural lifestyle can enjoy that small town sense of community with the modern conveniences of an urban area.
Tell us how having access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet could improve your family’s quality of life, or how new service options have changed the way you live. Your stories will continue to inspire our state’s leaders to do all they can to bring broadband to all of Indiana. Visit action.indianaec.org/share-your-story/