As many as one-third of residents of the United States can not access broadband internet services. As a person who lives in a rural area of north central Indiana, I currently do not have access. I have long considered these pockets of unserved areas unacceptable for our supposedly rich, developed nation and have been following with interest the allotment of stimulus funds to expand broadband access, particularly in Indiana.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) with $7.2 billion to expand access to broadband services in the United States. NTIA will make all grant awards by September 30, 2010.
As of May 2010, three organizations have applied for and received funding grants affecting Indiana:
Education Networks of America (ENA) has been awarded $14,257,172 and plans to deploy 560 miles of fiber connections to 145 public schools and libraries expanding educational services such as distance learning, online job training, and access to e-government services to an estimated 290,000 students and library patrons. They also intend to spur additional broadband internet services for residential, business and community institutions by enabling local internet providers to connect to the network.
One Economy Corporation has been awarded $28,519,482 and plans to provide computer training, wireless internet access, broadband awareness marketing, and online content to residents of lower income communities across 31 states, including Indiana.
Zayo Bandwidth, LLC has been awarded $25,140,315 and plans to connect the 21 Ivy Tech Community College campuses to the state’s existing high-speed network for education and research known as I-Light network. They also plan to provide points of interconnection enabling providers to serve additional residential, business and community institutions.
In addition, the plan for mapping of the country’s broadband capabilities will at long last provide information about unserved areas so that these can be addressed. States are charged to develop a plan to do this and the Indiana Office of Technology recently submitted its plan.