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Indiana Broadband Office designates Starke County as a Broadband Ready Community

Starke County is now designated as an official Broadband Ready Community, the first since the transition of this program from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation IEDC to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) . The Indiana Broadband Office (IBO) began managing the Broadband Ready Community program on July 1, 2020.

“We are certainly excited to see a community of this caliber receive the Broadband Ready Community certification,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “Indiana’s broadband expansion efforts are vast, and this is an integral and essential piece in ensuring our communities are ready for further expansion, investment and opportunities.” 

Recently, the Board of Commissioners of Starke County adopted a Broadband Ready Community ordinance and submitted it to OCRA.  “It’s cause for celebration, but more than that it’s time to plan how we’ll go from broadband ready, to broadband enabled. Broadband access throughout the county is needed to support modern agriculture, rural based small businesses and creatives, and to provide all students, young and old, an equal opportunity to participate in the 21st century information economy,” said Starke County Commissioners Charles Chesak, Kathy Norem and Bryan Cavender. “We’re looking forward to working with the State of Indiana, and public private partners like Kankakee Valley REMC and existing internet service providers to take Internet accessibility throughout Starke County to the next level.” 

“Starke County’s designation as the state’s newest Broadband Ready Community is a significant step forward to facilitate much needed investment in broadband across the county,” said Scott Rudd, Director of the IBO. “We look forward to working with Starke County leaders to build the strongest possible case for a far-reaching investment in high speed internet to enable telemedicine, student connectivity, precision agriculture, and quality of life.”

In 2018, the OCRA Broadband Readiness Planning Grant program was established to help communities understand the definition of broadband, the current state of broadband within their community, and outline their vision of broadband for the future. These grants are awarded to communities who qualify according to the Community Development Block Grant CDBG program.  Starke County was announced as one of five pilot Broadband Planning Grant communities.  In 2019, the community hosted three broadband team meetings and collected nearly 400 broadband survey responses from community members.  “As one of the five communities selected for OCRA’s Broadband Readiness Planning Grant Program, Starke County has illustrated a commitment to implementing its plan,” said Matt Crouch, Interim Executive Director of OCRA. “The County’s leadership should be commended for continuing the process of identifying opportunities for supporting future investment.”

To date, 35 communities have received Broadband Ready Community designation.

Broadband Ready Community Background

The Broadband Ready Communities Program was created as a tool to encourage broadband development throughout Indiana by serving as an information resource and certifying local communities as being broadband ready.  The Broadband Ready Community certification sends a signal to the telecommunication industry that a community has taken steps to reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure investment. While investment in broadband infrastructure is not guaranteed to follow once a community obtains the certification, reducing the regulatory hurdles that deter investment is a key step towards creating an environment ripe for broadband investment.

For more information, visit IBO BBRC