The fourth and final round of applications for Indiana’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program opened July 12. The program will offer telecommunications providers and utilities a total of $80 million in grants to deliver high-speed internet to Hoosiers.
“Whether I’m meeting with Realtors in Allen County or farmers in Montgomery County, access to affordable and reliable high-speed connectivity is the No. 1 priority around Indiana,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who also serves as Indiana’s secretary of agriculture and rural development. “As a state, we are aggressively closing the gap between Hoosiers who have broadband and Hoosiers who do not. This grant money, combined with the matching funds required by the providers, will get Indiana closer to complete broadband saturation.”
This round of grants total a combined $80 million in state and federal funds and will provide a maximum of $5 million per grant. The grants are meant to help companies expand broadband internet connection in rural areas.
The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as high-speed internet access that is consistent. This means consumers must have actual download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second.
According to the FCC broadband map, 98% of Hoosiers have broadband access. But other measurements, such as a fact sheet from the American Rescue Plan, show 12.4% of Hoosiers going without, while nearly half only have access to one broadband provider.
The grant program is a part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative, which began as a $1 billion infrastructure program when it was announced in 2018.
The NLC Broadband Grant Program has awarded more than $249 million to 187 projects since 2019, which will eventually provide broadband infrastructure to more than 69,154 homes, businesses and other organizations across 81 counties.
Specific guidance on the state website says funding will be prioritized for projects that provide upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps to as many locations as possible, particularly if a project provides a 1 gigabit connection to schools or rural health facilities.
Grant recipients must provide at least a 20% match of the total allowable project costs as well.
The deadline for full applications is Jan. 5, and selections are expected to be made by May 15.
“As a state, since 2018 we have made unprecedented investments in connecting Indiana residents to their neighbors, schools and the rest of the world like never before in our history,” Holcomb said in a press release. “This final round of Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program funding will be yet another critical component of the transition to the recently announced $868 million of additional funding from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program to connect more Hoosiers to begin being implemented next year and beyond.”
The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, or BEAD, is part of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress and signed into law in 2021. BEAD will fund the construction of broadband networks and reduce the cost of internet service for lower-income households over the next few years.
This story originally was published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Follow Indiana Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.