Grants to expand broadband to unserved areas

From Local Sources

Some rural residents in Dubois and Spencer counties will ultimately get rural broadband service, once the systems are built.

In the last two months, Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone Cooperative and Orange County REMC have received state and federal funds to expand broadband services to unserved areas.

The Federal Communications Commission announced in July grant awards it made for expanding broadband service to 26 rural counties in Indiana. Orange County REMC will get almost $5 million over the next 10 years to build a network that will serve 2,639 locations in northeastern corner of Dubois County. And Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone Cooperative will receive $1.2 million over the next 10 years to serve 359 locations in Spencer County.

“High-speed internet provides access to opportunity in the 21st century,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “and the FCC’s top priority is closing the digital divide so that all Americans can fully participate in our connected society.”

Stipulations for the FCC awards require the providers to build out 40% of the businesses and homes in its awarded coverage area within the next three years. The buildout coverage must increase by 20% each year after, until the complete buildout is done by the end of the sixth year, a FCC spokesperson said.

Perry-Spencer also was awarded a total of $13.5 million in Next Level Connections Broadband Grant funding to expand services in Spencer County. The grant awards were announced in August.

The company plans to provide fiber services to 934 unserved locations in Dale, Santa Claus, Chrisney, Gentryville and Grandview, as well as to another 1,754 unserved locations in rural Spencer County. Perry-Spencer will put in a match of $8.2 million for the projects.

“Hoosiers need affordable, quality internet regardless of where they live, work or go to school,” Gov. Holcomb said in making the announcement. “Access to broadband brings countless opportunities and that’s why I’m excited to see these key infrastructure projects positively impact economic development, health, agriculture and quality of life.”

Service providers could apply for up to $5 million per project to expand service to unserved areas if they provided at least a 20% match. Perry-Spencer’s award was for three projects.

The definition of an unserved area is an area without at least one telecommunication provider offering internet fast enough to provide the most basic services — at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.

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