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Buchanan: Bill to expand rural internet access passes House 4.14.2021

A bill co-authored by State Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon) that would expand rural internet access today passed the Indiana House of Representatives with bipartisan support Tuesday, April 13.

Senate Bill 377 would create the Indiana Broadband Connectivity Program, which would provide funding to expand broadband services in unserved areas.

The program would create a broadband portal that would allow Hoosiers who have no or poor internet access to alert the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) that they are in need of broadband access. Submissions could also be made through mail by households that cannot access internet.

Funding for this program would be distributed through a "reverse auction process," which is when the traditional roles of a buyer and seller are reversed. In this case, internet providers would bid for the project and apply for the necessary funds through the program.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen just how important broadband access is in order for Hoosiers to have a means of attending class online, working from home and many other activities," Buchanan said. "To date, more than 600,000 Hoosiers still have no access to high-speed internet. SB 377 would continue to improve broadband access in our state by creating a program that reaches areas in need."

Funding for this bill will be addressed in the state budget bill, House Bill 1001. SB 377 would also increase Indiana's broadband standard to 25 megabits per second, matching the nationwide standard.

SB 377 will now return to the Senate for further review.