Lt. Gov., OCRA announce Next Level Connections Round 3 awards
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs recently announced the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program is awarding $189 million for 154 broadband infrastructure expansion projects throughout the state in the program’s third round.
“Our Next Level Connections program continues to bridge the digital divide throughout our state,” Crouch said. “This investment will vastly grow economic opportunities in unserved areas and brings us closer to connecting all Hoosiers.”
The third round of funding will provide broadband infrastructure to more than 52,900 homes and commercial locations in 80 counties.
In addition to the $189 million awarded in this newest round, the 35 telecommunications providers and utility cooperatives contributed more than $239 million in matching funds, resulting in more than $429 million total investment for broadband.
The program allows broadband service providers and utility cooperatives to apply for up to $5 million to expand service to unserved areas if they provide at least a 20% match.
At Gov. Eric Holcomb’s request, Crouch, along with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, administers and oversees the program. OCRA will work with service providers in the coming weeks on next steps in the grant process.
“The expansion of broadband across the state will have a great, positive impact on Indiana,” said Denny Spinner, OCRA’s executive director. “This will increase the opportunity for Hoosiers to work and learn remotely and enhance health care access, especially for those living in rural areas.”
The Next Level Broadband Grant Program is the largest, single state investment in broadband. In total, rounds one, two and three of the program have awarded $268 million for broadband infrastructure for more than 74,800 homes and commercial locations. When combined with private and local investment, more than $580 million has been leveraged since 2018. Projects will have been completed in 83 of Indiana’s 92 counties through the three rounds of the awards.
Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program is part of Holcomb’s $1 billion Next Level Connections infrastructure program, which accelerates the completion of major highway projects, expands access to rural broadband services, creates more non-stop flights and pursues the expansion of rail projects in northwest Indiana. After the initial $100 million dedicated to broadband expansion, Holcomb worked with the General Assembly on an additional $250 million appropriation to continue the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program.