Investment

Another perspective: Broadband grants a wise investment in Hoosiers – The Daily Reporter

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Adrian Odle is a mechanical engineer, married mother of three and a floral farmer. And thanks to the Indiana Connectivity Program, she’ll soon have the kind of broadband speed needed for a modern family and entrepreneur.

Odle’s was one of 246 Hoosier households and seven businesses to receive a grant through the connectivity program made possible by the American Rescue Plan. The grant allows homeowners and business owners with no or unreliable internet service to apply for better connections. Allen County had 15 grant awardees in this round.

Building broadband networks is expensive for internet service providers, with barriers ranging from regulatory hurdles to terrain restrictions. For years, low population density has made it uneconomical to invest.

“COVID showed that broadband is not a luxury anymore,” Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch told The Journal Gazette on Thursday.

High-speed connectivity is about health, education, work and finances. In a holistic sense, increasing broadband access is an economic development issue that can’t be ignored.

Federal guidelines define broadband as a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 Mbps. For perspective, that’s a good rate for about two people and up to five devices, suggests tech publisher Move.org. Odle’s upload speed was 18.9 Mbps when she checked on Thursday. And this is in Allen County, where 94.6% of residents have access to speeds over 100 Mbps. Marion and Hancock counties, predictably, are wired for over 99% of residents to download at 100 Mbps, reports data aggregator BroadbandNow.

“This will have a great impact on these Hoosiers’ everyday lives, whether it be having the ability to work and learn remotely, shop online, or connect virtually with family and friends,” said Denny Spinner, director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, in a release announcing the awards.

Once sold as glitch-eradicating tech for streamers and gamers, high-speed connectivity is now seen as a vital utility.

Consider that a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study showed that Medicare telehealth grew 63-fold during the pandemic – from 840,000 visits in 2019 to 52.7 million through the end of 2020.

The pandemic also kindled a sizzling entrepreneurial spirit. In 2019, there were 3.5 million new business applications, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. In 2021, 5.4 million applications were filed, beating the record from the previous year by 1 million submissions.

Odle’s Creekside Meadows Flower Farm, 10904 E. North County Line Road, was borne from her dabbling with seed-starting vegetables during the early days of the pandemic. She later started experimenting with flowers.

It’s not a capricious choice. Before choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, the Rose-Hulman Institute graduate was a product manager for Franklin Electric working on irrigation pumps.

Odle developed a micro-farm for specialty-cut flowers, providing wholesale to florists and designers and a bouquet service for homes and offices.

“Everything I do for the business is online – ordering, payroll, the website,” she told the Journal Gazette. “So, the connection is not just for home but for my business as well. We’ll be able to do it all together.”

Lt. Gov. Crouch is encouraging Hoosiers to apply for the next round of funding. Find out more at www.in.gov/ocra/broadband/icp.

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