Indiana Rural Broadband Report 2015

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Executive Summary

Since 2006, Indiana has benefited from proactive telecommunication reform legislation
resulting in increased competition and eliminating unwarranted legacy regulations that
inhibited outside capital investment. As a result of this open, pro-competition environment, coupled with the development of a robust, fiber optic backhaul network serving much of the  state, and forward-thinking public/private partnerships offering last-mile broadband services, Indiana leads the Midwest in establishing a statewide broadband fiber optic infrastructure as a prerequisite to further investment in both wired and wireless broadband services. The major findings and recommendations of this paper are as follows:

  • According to the FCC’s Eighth Broadband Progress Report (2012), only 1.788 percent of the population in urban and suburban areas lack access to broadband, as opposed to 12.4 percent of the population living in rural areas.
  • Indiana is currently considered an “overachiever” due to the presence of pre-existing optical fiber networks, a pre-requisite to the buildout of wired and wireless broadband services in rural areas.
  • While the basic ingredients exist for broadband development in Indiana, future investment in rural areas will be technology agnostic, and will require a strategic plan to overcome Indiana’s inherent disadvantages, which include economies that depend less on technological advancements, terrain variations and vast rural areas. These “preconditions” will be different for each location, which suggests that broadband strategic plans must be customized for each rural area.
  • Proposed legislation in Indiana matches up well against efforts in other states to promote effective outcomes in terms of rural broadband deployment.
  • Indiana should develop programs to increase broadband adoption in rural areas and to include digital literacy education programs so as to educate Indiana residents regarding the benefits and uses of broadband Internet. Heightened digital literacy will increase consumer adoption rates and potential positive economic impact in areas of new wire and wireless broadband deployment.
  • Upon review, Indiana should continue to promote broadband development and expansion with the funding of a new Rural Broadband Center which would work with county, municipal and economic development officials to assist in the ascertainment of local broadband demand, to review economic development opportunities, to identify potential partners, and to develop a customized broadband strategic plan for each rural area of the state.