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Indiana Fosters Relationships in Preparation for Federal Broadband Funds

The state partners with educational institutions and service providers to maximize public funding.

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WASHINGTON, July 21, 2022 – Indiana state broadband officials emphasized Wednesday that the state has fostered relationships with anchor institutions and the private sector that they say will benefit the state as it prepares to deploy federal funding.

Indiana’s broadband office partnered with educators at Purdue University to develop digital literacy initiatives in preparation for the $2.75 billion Digital Equity program, which allocates funds to promote digital literacy activities as part of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, said the officials at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. State officials estimate that the state will receive between $500 million to $1 billion from the IIJA.

Educators across the state are being trained in digital literacy initiatives, said Earnie Holtrey, program manager for the director of the Indiana broadband office. Digital literacy initiatives focus on the adoption of broadband by helping community members understand the limitations and potential of new technologies.

Furthermore, the state’s $100 million broadband grant program, which is currently in the third round of funding, fosters relationships between local providers and government agencies as they work together to apply and implement the grant funds.

Screenshot of Earnie Holtrey of the Indiana broadband office

State officials and service providers meet regularly to discuss the granular details of broadband deployment, said Holtrey. The state responded well to the Covid-19 pandemic and will respond well to federal grants due to these established relationships, he continued.

Indiana has several other state broadband programs. The Broadband Ready Community program, established in 2015, recognizes cities that meet certain broadband deployment requirements. The Community Champions program recognizes individuals in the community that improve broadband connectivity in the area.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Summer of Broadband: Indiana

State broadband offices will play a critical role in the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. In the months of July and August, Broadband Breakfast will take the pulse of broadband efforts at the state level in visits to about half-dozen states across the country. On July 20, we will speak with key officials, including the State Infrastructure Administrator and Chief Broadband Officer of the Office of Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Program Manager for the Director of the Indiana Broadband Office of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, and the director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Join us at 12 Noon ET to learn what the Hoosier state is doing in bringing a plan together on broadband policy.

Panelists:

  • Earnie Holtrey, Program Manager for the Director of the Indiana Broadband Office, State of Indiana
  • Jodi Golden, State Infrastructure Administrator and Chief Broadband Officer, State of Indiana
  • Roberto Gallardo, Director, Purdue Center for Regional Development
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Earnie Holtry was served as the Broadband Project Manager for the Indiana Broadband Office since early 2020. Prior to this he served as a community liaison for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, both under the direction of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Holtry works with communities and providers offering technical assistance for planning, inclusion/equity, and construction funding.  He also administers the broadband ready communities’ program as he fulfills the Office’ mission of serving as the “one-stop-shop” for all things broadband in Indiana. Earnie has a B.A. in Psychology from The Ohio State University.

Jodi Golden was appointed State Infrastructure Coordinator in March of 2022, and previously she served as Co-Chief of Staff/Chief of Agency Operations for Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Golden identifies, analyzes and assists in prioritizing the types of funds available through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. She leads and coordinates activities across relevant state agencies, local governments and stakeholder groups in anticipation of the formula and competitive grants through the IIJA. In her work as Chief of Agency Operations, Golden oversaw the agencies within the Lt. Governor’s portfolio. These consist of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, Office of Community & Rural Affairs, Indiana Destination Development Corporation, Indiana Housing & Community Development Association & the Indiana Broadband Office. Before that, she served as Executive Director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Illinois Capital Development Board and the Indiana Education Savings Authority. She holds a B.S. in Speech Communication: Public Relations and a M.P.A. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Roberto Gallardo is Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and an Agricultural Economics associate professor. He holds an electronics engineering undergraduate degree, a master’s in economic development, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the past 17 years conducting local and regional community economic development, including use of technology for development. He has authored more than 100 articles and reports including peer-reviewed and news-related regarding rural trends, socioeconomic analysis, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications for community economic development. He also has assisted the state of Indiana implement their broadband programs acting as their Next Level Broadband Connections Director for six months. He is also the author of the bookResponsive Countryside: The Digital Age & Rural Communities,” which highlights a 21st century community development model that helps rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age. Dr. Gallardo is a TEDx speaker and his work has been featured in a WIRED magazine article, a MIC.com documentary, and a RFDTV documentary.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Photo by Braden Egli used with permission

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Funding

States and Municipalities Should Move Quickly on Infrastructure Funding, BEAD or Not

Beginning financial planning early and allow time to tweak statutes that may stand in the way of certain funding options.

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Photo of Drew Clark (left), Tom Coverick, David Wedick and Vikash Harlalka at Digital Infrastructure Investment by Zoey Howell-Brown.

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2022 – Despite an unprecedented influx of federal broadband funding, states should expeditiously pursue diverse network funding options, said Tom Coverick, managing director at Keybanc Capital Markets, speaking Thursday at Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment conference.

Coverick advocated financial strategies that are “nimble, responsive, and quick.” And among other benefits, beginning financial planning early on allows time to tweak statutes that may stand in the way of certain funding options, he argued.

“I don’t think sitting and waiting for one piece (of financing) is the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t say that people should be hasty, but the reality is it’s always easier to slow things down in the financial world than it is to speed them up,” he added.

David Wedick, chief financial officer of the Maine Connectivity Authority, also spoke to importance of timely action. “Time is money, and the market is changing,” he said.

The two were speaking on a panel moderated by Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, and including Vikash Harlalka, a member of the Communications Services team at New Street Research.

The private sector can offer much more to the broadband industry than just financial support, Wedick argued. “Investment from the private sector is not just going to be in terms of dollars, it’s going to be in terms of resources (such as) the law firm that decides to create a new division around broadband legal work,” he said.

In addition to seeking out private investment, state officials must navigate the federal government’s multitude of broadband-funding efforts, including a $65 billion infusion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Federal moneys are divided among numerous programs administered by various federal agencies, including the United States Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund, the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment initiative. The BEAD fund will distribute $42.45 billion to the states for deployment and related projects.

Full videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment will be available soon for Broadband Breakfast Club members. Join the waitlist:

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Local Leadership and Coordination Key to Proper Federal Fund Allocation, Conference Hears

Local communities understand their own needs, said Arkansas’s Glen Howie.

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Photo of Phil Murphy, senior advisor at the NTIA, at the DII conference Thursday

WASHINGTON, November 17, 2022 – Robust state and local leadership in coordination with federal support initiatives is key to the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s broadband funding, agreed officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and state broadband offices speaking at Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment conference Thursday.

Local communities understand their own needs best, said Glen Howie, director of the Arkansas State Broadband Office. Howie said his state will “go county by county,” encouraging ground-up leadership from the citizens of his state.

“It’s not really about Washington, and it’s not even really about Little Rock, it’s about (local communities),” he said. Before assuming his current position, Howie worked in Louisiana’s broadband office, another state which prioritizes community engagement.

In Maryland, state funding initiatives favor service providers who enjoy community support, said the state’s broadband director, Kenrick Gordon. One Maryland program even allows local jurisdictions to apply in partnership with a preferred provider, he said.

At the federal level, the NTIA is working with states to provide them the resources they need, said Phil Murphy, senior advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary at the NTIA. Speakers noted that many state broadband offices are only months old, understaffed, or both.

“We really want to be partners,” he said, “We want to work with (states) through this process and to help them leverage the capabilities that we’ve developed so that we’re all working towards the same goal.”

And beyond the IIJA funding initiatives, Howie said he is working to brighten his state’s future by seeking out technology innovators in many fields, including agriculture, education, and healthcare.

“I’m on the hunt for really cool, innovative things that could be disruptors…in Arkansas,” he said.

The IIJA, which became law one year ago Tuesday,  allocated to broadband infrastructure an unprecedented $65 billion. Congress designated the bulk of these funds – $42.5billion – for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, primarily a infrastructure deployment initiative, which will issue grants to the states based on relative need, as shown in the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map.

The NTIA administers BEAD funds and is scheduled to announce states’ grants by June 2023. Once states receive funds, they will operate sub-grant programs to allocate funding to individual deployment and related projects.

Beside the BEAD program, the IIJA funded initiatives to promote digital equity and adoption, middle-mile infrastructure, and tribal broadband.

Full videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment will be available soon for Broadband Breakfast Club members. Join the waitlist:

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Funding

Senators Push Bill to Make Broadband Grants Non-Taxable By Year-End

Sen. Mark Warner said he is in discussions to push the bill to law this year.

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Screenshot of Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2022 – Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Wednesday that he is pushing to become law this year a bill that would shield from taxes federal broadband funds to maximize the amounts going to builds.

“I’m engaged real-time in conversations with the finance committee and others to see if we could get this included (in) the end-of-the-year package,” he explained at the 2022 US Telecom Broadband Investment Forum.

Warner and Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on Wednesday touted the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act, which was introduced by the senators in September. Each emphasized the importance of maximizing the reach of federal broadband funding.

Tax-exempt funding programs would include middle-mile grants, the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. The BEAD program will distribute $42.45 billion – about two thirds of the IIJA’s broadband funds – to the states.

“One way (to get broadband funds to unserved areas) is to make sure that the money is not returned to the Treasury because of a tax on the grants,” argued Moran. “Taxing the grants would limit the effectiveness of the deployment programs. This would mean fewer people would receive broadband services in our state and around the country, and it would reduce the chances that rural America finally gets the service that it needs.

“Forcing broadband providers to pay back a portion of their broadband-deployment funds just lacks common sense,” he added.

To prevent federally-funded overbuilding – in which money goes to areas that already have adequate infrastructure – Moran advocated robust congressional oversight. Congress should use its power of the purse to promote executive agency accountability, he argued.

Moran also called for close coordination between the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Rural Utilities Service, three leading administers of federal broadband funding.

In August, US Telecom and fellow trade organization NCTA – The Internet & Television Association argued for federal protections against overbuilding in comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission.

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