WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A virtual town hall meeting was held to gather ideas for improving internet access in rural communities.
Professors, politicians and other leaders shared their insight.
Here are a few highlights from the event.
“The Future of Tech Commission is working to gather input from around the country at events like this, on the urgent tech policy challenges and opportunities facing our economy and our democracy. The goal of our commission is to release a comprehensive blueprint with a clear call to action for our nation.”
Margaret Spellings, co-commissioner
Future of Tech Commission
“There’s a big divide in Indiana between those who have access to internet and those who do not. In rural areas, 40% did not have access to 100/20 mbps as of June 2020 versus 4% in urban areas.”
Roberto Gallardo, director
Purdue Center for Regional Development
“We have a dire need to provide and engineer universal broadband access in this country. We cannot afford to have 120 million Americans without broadband internet. Here in Indiana, I think we’re doing a good job. But there is a lot of room for improvement — with over 4 million people without broadband access. The pandemic, with remote working and learning, accelerated and amplified the need to bridge this digital divide.”
Mung Chiang, executive vice president for strategic initiatives and the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering
“We’ve been fortunate that the Legislature and governor initially gave us $100 million to help out rural communities. This past legislative session they invested another $250 million in funding. We’ve already been able to fund $80 million worth of projects around the state. Some of the challenges that we’re really running into, especially related to rural communities, is their ability to find the right partners and to ensure the partners are identifying the gaps.”
Matt Crouch, deputy director
Indiana Office of Community Affairs
“The bottom line with regard to policy is that every county has to have an elected champion for broadband. This person has to be elected in the county council or county commissioners, and they have to work incessantly to convince others that this is important — I would say a critical thing to do.”
Tony London, commissioner
“What we’re finding is that, within cities and towns, broadband is readily available, relatively affordable and pretty fast. … But the further you get away from city limits, the less likely you’ll have access to the current speed standards.”
Jeff Plasterer, executive director
Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Council