Broadband access: broadband remains priority issue that needs to be addressed ​

Curious as to whether you’ll be receiving high speed broadband access in the near future? The answer: It’s still up in the air. Two very different broadband-related bills went through the General Assembly in 2017 with the goal of providing broadband “to the last mile” in the Hoosier state.

HEA 1626 requests a study committee to review the factors that limit rural broadband service. Farm Bureau asked for an in-depth look and hopes the study can help resolve needs related to density of use, easement acquisition, and financial support or incentives for expansion.

“Broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Justin Schneider, INFB director of state government relations. “Kids can’t do their homework, those in rural communities can’t run small businesses and farmers can’t access or use data and technology without high-speed broadband internet.”

The second bill, SEA478—an REMC-supported bill—allows an REMC to convert privately negotiated electrical easements to communication easements for the delivery of communication services, such as broadband. The new use is limited to fiber on existing poles. Landowners will be able to recover for any physical damage to property or crops from the installation of the fiber. For underground installation of fiber, the REMC must negotiate with the landowner. 

"There are a few REMCs that will take advantage of this new law,” said Schneider, “but there will likely be slow growth using this procedure over the next couple of years.

“In any event, Indiana still must develop a comprehensive strategy for delivering broadband to the last mile and we look forward to the opportunity to partner with the state and telecommunications providers to connect rural Indiana to needed services,” said Schneider.