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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The effort to get broadband to Indiana’s last unconnected areas is moving on two separate tracks.

Governor Holcomb announced the “Next Level Connections Fund” last week. It’ll use $100 million from increased tolls for trucks on the Indiana Toll Road to encourage providers to extend broadband to rural communities. A much smaller fund is awarding $50,000 planning grants for communities to assess their options for getting connected. The Office of Community and Rural Affairs awarded the first round of that money to Greene, Marshall and Starke Counties, and the towns of Dale and English.

93,000 Hoosiers are without broadband. A Purdue study found getting them connected would boost the economy by $12 billion. More people could work from home, and there’d be more education opportunities. Center for Regional Development Bo Beaulieu says the biggest impact would come in health care: people could use telemedicine options instead of missing work to drive to the hospital.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)