The push for broadband expansion across rural Indiana continues as many ag agencies and state lawmakers agree that the expansion is necessary—but, it will take some time to get there.
“Much like electricity was almost a century ago, broadband is now that key infrastructure piece we have to have in rural communities,” says Andy Tauer (shown above), Executive Director of Public Policy with Indiana Farm Bureau.
He says the organization has been pushing for broadband expansion as part of its rural infrastructure policies. Tauer adds that expansion is becoming more necessary as newer farm machines are using computers and software to sync up online to operate more efficiently.
“Connectivity is so vitally important not only to the last mile, but really to the last acre,” says Tauer. “The other thing that we’re hearing from our members that connectivity gives them the ability to make real-time sustainability and conservation decisions on the fly in the field as they’re working. That’s been a priority for our members for last several sessions and we will continue to advocate for additional broadband access into those rural communities.”
State Senator Jean Leising, who lives near Oldenburg in southeastern Indiana, says she understands the need for greater broadband access for rural Hoosiers.
“During COVID, when our kids had to do a lot of things from home, we just didn’t have the broadband capability. That’s been a very difficult thing,” says Leising.
She adds that she knows personally what it’s like for those in rural Indiana who don’t have broadband access.
“At my house right now, my only access to the internet is my cell phone. Some people might say, ‘How can that be? She’s on the Senate Utilities Committee?’ But the reality is—it’s a tough thing to get broadband expanded everywhere. It’s very expensive.”
Coming up this June, more funding for broadband expansion will be given out through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program—as part of $65 billion approved by Congress in 2021 for broadband expansion across the U.S.