Broadband expansion bills move forward in Indiana

Politics
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INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers are moving forward with efforts to expand broadband in Indiana. With more federal money available, the state may be able to shift the burden off local government.

“Broadband is an essential human service, and the state should be aware of where this service is available and where it isn’t,” said Citizen’s Action Coalition of Indiana Executive Director Kerwin Olson. “We need things to be transparent so we can make good decisions and spend money wisely.”

Indiana lawmakers are working on that. Three Senate broadband expansion bills passed a House committee Monday: SB 377, SB 352 and SB 359. House Bill 1449 is headed to the Senate floor on this topic.

“One of the things we don’t want to do is encourage locals right now to go into debt when we have so much money coming in for broadband and more probably in the infrastructure bill which has $94 billion more for broadband,” said State Rep. Ed Soliday, (R) Valparaiso.

“Perhaps there’s a way to shift some of this funding around,” said Olson. “We could use those federal broadband funds that would free up state funds that could be used for other needs, most notably water and waste water services.”

That’s still being discussed.

The proposed legislation creates the “dig once” program and puts the Indiana Department of Transportation in charge. It will determine when and where internet infrastructure can be put into road areas.

“Only digging once when possible makes sure that we are not disrupting other services and soil,” said Olson. “We can do it as infrequently as possible with the most bang for our buck.”

Olson said expansion of broadband is great but cost to the customer is just as vital.

“Whether it’s a voucher or discount program or whatever the case may be, we have to have an eye toward the affordability of essential services when we are laying out a budget and spending priorities,” said Olson.

All of these broadband proposals will be open for amendments on their respective chamber’s floor in the coming days.

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