Last month, President Biden signed into law sweeping infrastructure legislation that includes billions of dollars to help expand access to broadband internet. But communities don’t need to wait for the law to be implemented to start these projects. If your community is like mine in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, you can and should act now to help close the digital divide for your families, students and local businesses.
Vanderburgh County is a wonderful place. Warm people. Midwest charm. Plenty of space to make a home and raise a family, but not too spread out if you need to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor. And, like so many communities around the country, we’ve had big problems getting internet access to our people.
Today, one-third of the population of unincorporated Vanderburgh County does not have access to fixed broadband solutions. Fortunately, that’s all about to change. Thanks to unprecedented federal funding currently available to states, counties, municipalities and Tribal communities through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), we’re moving forward on a $39 million public-private project with AT&T that will bring fast, reliable fiber-optic internet to more than 20,000 households and businesses in our county.
Life is about to get a lot better in Vanderburgh County.
The potential for new economic opportunity will be immense when local businesses in every corner of our county have best-in-class fiber solutions to connect to customers and participate in e-commerce.
No longer will I hear from parents at West Terrace Elementary School who have to drive their children to the parking lot of a local fast-food restaurant to do schoolwork. We’re putting “home” back in homework.
And when a baby gets a fever, mom or dad will finally be able to hop onto telehealth services and connect with a doctor in Evansville who can quickly advise about treatment.
With access to affordable, reliable internet, these modern-day necessities and conveniences many of us take for granted will soon be available to thousands of our residents who could only wish for them before. And that’s just in our community. Think about the ways life would improve across the country if other communities take advantage of ARP funding and start projects with great private partners like AT&T.
There’s nothing stopping communities from jumping in immediately to help close the digital divide. Two key broadband funding sources through ARP — which are currently accepting applications for a variety of uses — can be found here:
- $350 billion Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund: Application| Guidance | FAQ
- $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: Application| Guidance: State & Tribal
I’m so glad we took action in Vanderburgh, and that we partnered with AT&T. Not only do we have a partner to complete the fiber build in the county, we also have peace of mind knowing that AT&T will continue to maintain the network and infrastructure for years to come.
My advice to other communities: Don’t wait. The funding is there for you, and so is the urgent need to make reliable broadband connectivity a reality for your people who don’t have access today.
Cheryl Musgrave is Vanderburgh County Commissioner. A pioneer in bringing government services online, she is also known for sensible and innovative leadership on behalf of Indiana taxpayers.