In recent years, its become clear that there is a disparity found in accessibility to high-speed internet. Oftentimes, access to broadband is necessary for work, school, healthcare, and much more. However, in rural communities, getting access to broadband can be a challenge. The percentage of rural communities that cannot access the FCC’s definition of “minimal broadband speed” is an alarming 39 percent, while only four percent of urban communities lack access. That’s why The Delaware County Broadband Taskforce and East Central Indiana Regional Planning District have been working together to bring fiber to the east-central Indiana communities that need it.
Gary Thompson— an American Connection Corps Fellow serving as an AmeriCorps Service Member with the East Central Indiana Regional Planning District, an initiative of Lead For America and the American Connection Project—was tasked with spearheading this broadband infrastructure project. Executive Director Bill Walters of ECI Regional Planning District and Brad Bookout are members of the broadband steering committee and also contributed heavily to the recent deal between Delaware County and At&T.
“ECIRPD has been working with the State of Indiana and Purdue University on broadband for the last three years. We were early to recognize the need both in business and agriculture for the future. We joined with Delaware County elected officials and business owners to evaluate the county and prioritize the needs. Soon after, an RFP was issued to address the needs uncovered by the steering committee. I’m happy to report we were able to reach 1259 customers in Delaware County with the most recent agreement with AT&T. With the addition of $2.2 million dollars in fiber infrastructure, Delaware County is making it’s self-more available to future opportunities! With $42.45 billion dollars dedicated to broadband infrastructure, it is the largest U.S. investment in broadband history,” said Walters.
Now, communities across the US are in the position to receive funding to expand their broadband service. The FCC announced the release of their “preproduction draft” broadband map. This map is important for the FCC to determine how to distribute the 42.45 billion dollars to each state and territory for broadband infrastructure expansion.
Households that are underserved or unserved by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can submit an availability challenge to point out the inaccuracies in what ISPs say is available in that area. They can also submit a location challenge if their location, residence, or business is missing from the map. The FCC Speed Test app is available for IOS or Android; additionally, the Indiana Farm Bureau also has a speed test. This test allows residents to see their current internet speed while also providing data about their level of service (whether they are unserved or underserved) that may make them eligible for upcoming investments.
Individuals have until January 13th, 2023 to submit their challenges.