Broadband firms request $606M in grants from state program

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The third round of Indiana’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant program has received more than 250 letters of intent requesting $606 million total in state grant funding, while committing to supplying $280 million in matching funds.

The state’s decisions on which requests will receive funds—and how much—are expected in spring 2022.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office said on Monday that these initial requests come from 48 internet service providers covering more than 140,000 homes, businesses and other locations, such as schools and health clinics, in 89 counties.

“This most recent wave of demand represents almost $900 million in potential new broadband investment in almost every county in the state. This is a strong testament to not only the need for broadband but also the growing confidence in this nation-leading program to deliver broadband to every Hoosier in the state,” Holcomb said in a written statement.

Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative is a $1 billion statewide infrastructure program created in 2018 and administered by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Of the original $100 million dedicated, $79 million was awarded in the first two rounds of grant funding to 63 projects, for a total investment of $155 million when private and local investment dollars are included.

Following the 2021 legislative session, Holcomb signed the state budget which dedicated another $250 million for the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant program.

Service providers can apply for up to $5 million per project to expand service to unserved and underserved areas in communities around the state. Applicants must contribute at least a 20 percent match to receive grant funds. Funding decisions for this round are expected in spring 2022.

“This overwhelming response shows the continued need we have for reliable broadband here in Indiana, amplified by the pandemic,” Crouch said  in a written statement. “Broadband services are essential in today’s world, and it is encouraging to see so many providers wanting to take part in this program and enhance broadband opportunities throughout the state.”

After a challenge process, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs will accept and review final applications, and a multi-agency committee will evaluate the proposals.

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