$3M state grant to help expand internet access
A project expanding fast and reliable internet to unserved homes and businesses in Crawford County can now move forward, thanks to a $3 million state broadband grant, according to State Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty.
“Securing these grant funds is extremely important and vital to Crawford County,” Bartels said. “This investment will help more than 1,000 households and businesses in our area stay connected and continue to be productive, whether using the internet for school or work.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs recently announced a total of $51 million awarded for 50 broadband expansion projects in Indiana. The funding is part of the second round of the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, which will provide broadband infrastructure to more than 10,590 homes and commercial locations throughout 32 counties.
The local proposed project, by Mainstream Fiber Networks, will serve approximately 1,041 unserved households, 128 unserved businesses and 25 anchor institutions in primarily rural portions of Crawford County, Bartels added.
The requested grant amount is more than $3.06 million with a local match of $2.71 million, for a total project cost of more than $5.7 million.
Bartels worked for more than a year alongside county officials to help obtain more broadband funding to expand and improve internet access for families, farmers and businesses.
In addition to the $51 million awarded, 16 telecommunications providers and utility cooperatives contributed more than $53 million in matching funds, resulting in more than $104 million total investment for broadband.
The Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program provides funding of up to $5 million per project to expand broadband service to unserved areas. In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must be able to contribute at least a 20% match.
Also, the Crawford County Community School Corp. recently received $11,943 in grant funding to invest in remote learning equipment and internet connectivity, Bartels said.
“Students and teachers are hard at work this new school year, and this additional funding will help them meet certain challenges that come with remote learning,” he said. “The success of our schools is tied to the success of our communities, and we need to work together to ensure students, teachers and families have the tools to continue to thrive.”
Statewide, schools received a total of $61 million through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which was created by the federal CARES Act. Funding will help increase device access, internet connectivity, and educator training and development.
Crawford County schools will use its share to put toward purchasing devices like Chromebooks and iPads for students, new or upgraded laptops and tablets for teachers and mobile Wi-Fi devices with subscription plans for households needing internet service.
The GEER funding, according to Bartels, supports several education-related entities throughout the state. A grant application could be completed by a single school corporation or a combination of eligible education entities. The 257 applications received were evaluated by a team from the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana State Board of Education.