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Telecommunications deregulation comes home to rural Indiana

Having lived all of my life in rural Indiana, I know the challenges many small communities like Bruceville, Elizabethtown and Jasonville face. One of the biggest is infrastructure, both for transportation and information.
We have talked a lot this year about upgrading Indiana’s roads through our Major Moves plan, which will benefit every Indiana county. But, in this year’s legislative session we also made great progress aimed at improving Indiana’s information and telecommunication infrastructure. And this week I am happy to say Bruceville, Elizabethtown and Jasonville will be among 33 rural communities benefiting from Indiana’s new telecommunications deregulation reform.
Last week, I joined Gov. Mitch Daniels as he announced AT&T’s ‘High-Speed to the Heartland’ project. Over the next year, AT&T will expand its DSL service to every central office it serves. Places as small as Stewart in Warren County, with a population of 268, will soon have high-speed Internet access.
This is exciting news for a state with a poor technological track record. Right now, our limited broadband access puts us in the bottom half of states nationwide. That means Hoosiers, either at home or at work, lag behind other Americans in their access to high-speed Internet. And, growth in the telecommunications industry is tied to the growth of other industries. Lack of access hinders economic growth, affecting all Hoosiers, whether they know how to run a computer or not.
The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs is addressing the needs and issues of our state’s smaller communities. One of its goals is to foster and facilitate the growth and development of broadband access. The telecom reform bill is a big step in the right direction.
Indiana’s new telecom deregulation reform gives us the most pro-business telecom laws in the nation. Soon we will not lag behind, but lead the nation. This will happen because telecom reform will increase competition, lowering phone and cable prices and sparking new investment in the state.
According to a Ball State University report, broadband access is the main ingredient in attracting growth industries that are historically underrepresented here. Two separate studies conclude that Indiana’s telecom law could create 20,000 new jobs. And Indiana’s smaller communities stand to gain a great deal.
As we talk about the business benefits of telecom deregulation, we cannot forget what it means to the average Hoosier. Whether you live in a rural or urban area, all of us would welcome lower phone and cable bills. The increased competition that is good for economic development is also good for consumers who want to ‘shop around’ for better prices and services.
Whether you live in Ft. Wayne or Flat Rock, increasing the availability of broadband is an important part of moving Indiana forward. My upbringing and work with rural communities reinforce my strong belief that telecom deregulation will improve Indiana’s technological track record and bring new opportunities to businesses and homes across the state.
Governor Daniels and I have made improving the state’s economy our top priority. Thanks to strong leadership, unemployment is down and nearly 90,000 more Hoosiers are employed than this time last year. However, we will not rest until all Hoosiers who want to work can find a good paying job. Indiana’s national leadership in transportation infrastructure and the invisible infrastructure of the 21st century will create even more opportunities in the future.
Among her duties, Lt. Governor Becky Skillman oversees the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. To learn more about OCRA go to www.in.gov/ocra.

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