Sen. Young, Rep. Pence talk rural broadband access

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

GREENFIELD, Ind. – Two of Indiana’s federal lawmakers talked rural broadband access in Hancock County Friday.

Sen. Todd Young and Congressman Greg Pence met with officials from NineStar Connect to discuss how the federal government is working to meet the needs of rural communities for expanded broadband access.

Broadband remains in great need in some of Indiana’s rural communities. 

“It is such a critical quality of life and quality of place issue,” said Michael Burrow, president and CEO of NineStar Connect.

NineStar Connect’s service area in Hancock County has its internet needs met, Burrow said, but some neighboring areas barely have internet access.

Burrow said companies like his have gotten help through some of the federal COVID-19 relief legislation, but there’s still more work to do.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that a lot of what we have been able to build in Hancock County will eventually be able to come to other counties in Indiana,” Burrow said.

Part of Friday’s discussion focused on the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate this week. According to the White House, it would bring $100 million in funding for broadband to Indiana.

“We support broadband deployment,” Sen. Young said. “We just want it done right.”

Sen. Young voted against the bill after initially expressing his support.

“The promise is it was supposed to pay for itself without increasing taxes, and we were close to doing that,” Young said. “But they moved away from that stated goal.”

“Our glass is half full-on broadband,” Rep. Pence said.

Congressman Pence said he plans to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill due to House Democrats’ push for a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill linked to the plan. 

Pence and Young said they remain committed to bringing broadband funding to Indiana.

“In one way, shape or form, whether it’s the diversion or conversion some of the unspent COVID money, we are going to get broadband expanded in this country,” Rep. Pence said.

“I’m going to continue to advocate on Hoosiers’ behalf and your behalf for robust investments in broadband,” Sen. Young told the group.

We wanted to ask Sen. Young about his vote against the bill, but a spokesperson said Young was unavailable for an interview.

The House is expected to work on its version of the infrastructure bill upon return from recess later this month.

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