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Co-ops Receive $36 Million for Broadband in Unserved Indiana
Indiana Ag Connection - 09/24/2020

Indiana is awarding $36 million in state broadband grants to eight electric cooperatives--including $16 million to Tipmont REMC--to connect unserved rural communities and businesses.

The Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program awards also include $12.5 million to Osgood-based Southeastern Indiana REMC and SEI Communications, $2.75 million to Martinsville-based South Central Indiana REMC, and $2.19 million to Orleans-based Orange County REMC, reports the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Danville-based Hendricks Power Cooperative and Endeavor Communications received $851,085; Brownstown-based Jackson County REMC got nearly $500,000; New Castle-based Henry County REMC and Central Indiana Communications received $361,711; and Franklin-based JCREMC got $68,193 for broadband projects.

Southeastern Indiana REMC, with SEI, will apply the grants to three major broadband projects to connect more than 3,600 households, businesses and institutions across six counties.

Linden-based Tipmont and its broadband division, Wintek, will use the grants for 20 projects to build high-speed internet service for over 2,200 homes, businesses and institutions in five counties. The co-op said that shared infrastructure from these projects will help serve thousands more in the future.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how important access to quality broadband is for modern life," said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives, based in Indianapolis. "We are so thankful to the state of Indiana for the support as our cooperatives continue to find ways to close the rural digital divide."

Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, chosen by Gov. Eric Holcomb to oversee the Next Level Connections program with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, praised co-ops' broadband endeavors.

"We are proud of our partnership with organizations like Indiana Electric Cooperatives and their members," she said.

Internet service providers including electric co-ops could seek up to $5 million in grants for each broadband project if they provided a minimum of 20% in matching funds under the Next Level Connections program. In total, $51 million in grants for 50 broadband projects were awarded during this second round of the program. Southern Indiana Power, Tipmont and Jackson County REMC were the only three co-ops to win grants, totaling $8 million, during the program's first round in 2019.

"Tipmont is committed to bringing fiber internet to our entire electric service area," said Ron Holcomb, the co-op's president and CEO. "These funds will help bring service where it is desperately needed."

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