Pandemic shows legislators why broadband is so important
Mar 3, 2021, 16:03 PM
Brady Hagerty, INFB Marketing Team
Expanding broadband to unserved and underserved communities remains a focus as the Indiana General Assembly reaches its halfway point.
Indiana Farm Bureau’s public policy team has been working with legislators on a number of bills focused on broadband.
“With COVID-19 still impacting the normal course of business for many industries, including the 2021 session, legislators understand the need for high-quality broadband,” said Katrina Hall, INFB’s senior director of policy strategy and advocacy. “We will continue to be involved in those conversations to ensure our unserved and underserved members are well represented at the Statehouse.”
The broadband bills INFB supports include:
- Senate Bill 264, authored by Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), which would urge the Legislative Council to assign the topic of installation and leasing of broadband infrastructure by investor-owned electric utilities to broadband service providers that provide internet to unserved and underserved areas.
- Senate Bill 359, authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), which would permit a unit of local government to finance broadband projects through the issuance of taxable or tax-exempt bonds to be repaid by a broadband provider.
- Senate Bill 377, authored by Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington), which seeks to establish the Indiana Broadband Expansion Fund to distribute federal broadband funding. It would also require the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Development (OCRA) to establish a public broadband portal through which Hoosiers can report issues with service and connectivity.
- House Bill 1426, authored by Rep. Holli Sullivan (R-Evansville), which would change the criteria for eligibility of broadband grants for rural areas, allowing OCRA to spend rural broadband grant money on a broader array of projects.
- House Bill 1449, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), which would require broadband projects eligible for a Rural Broadband Grant to provide speeds of at least 100 mbps download and 10 mbps uploads; and the OCRA to publish a statewide map illustrating the availability of broadband by census block.
- House Bill 1522, authored by Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), would require the Indiana Office of Technology to produce a map illustrating broadband service and broadband speeds, by census block, for property owners to view.
“As we head into the final month of session, members are encouraged to continue communicating with legislations,” Hall added. “They are hearing you.”