INDIANA – Governor Eric Holcomb announced Thursday the second phase of his Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program.

Phase two includes $51 million of funding for 50 broadband infrastructure expansion projects across the state. Combined with phase one, the program has awarded more than $79 million for broadband infrastructure for nearly 22,000 homes and commercial locations in 41 counties.

The Next Level Broadband Grant Program is the largest single state investment in broadband and expects to distribute $100 million dollars total to projects.

“Lt. Governor Crouch and I have been dedicated to improving internet access for years, and now COVID has only made the need for affordable, dependable broadband more apparent,” Gov. Holcomb said.

“This latest round of grants will give more Hoosiers access to more affordable, quality internet regardless of where they live, work or go to school.”

In addition to the $51 million awarded from the state, the 16 telecommunications providers and utility cooperatives contributed more than $53 million in matching funds, resulting in more than $104 million total investment for broadband.

The program allows broadband service providers and utility cooperatives to apply for up to $5 million to expand service to unserved areas if they provide at least a 20 percent match.

Unserved areas are those without at least one telecommunication provider offering at least 10 mbps download and 1 mbps upload. Proposed projects must provide a minimum level of service at actual speeds of 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload.

Two northeast Indiana companies will received grants to help communities in their service areas.

Mercury Wireless will help communities in Allen, DeKalb and Whitley Counties. Their project connects 130 households and five businesses. They received a grant total of $110,040 and exceeded a match with $348,460 in internal funds for a total project cost of $458,500.

“We’re probably going to hit the ground running. We’ve got a kickoff webinar here in a couple of weeks. We’re ready to move in this area and start with these deployments. We’re hoping to have everything completed ahead of schedule,” Mercury Wireless Chief of Staff Matthew Sams said.

“Really the main goal is to empower these communties. With everything that’s happened with COVID, it’s important that we get our school aged children connected and get people working from home.”

Lakeland Internet will cover a project in Steuben County. It will serve 40 households in the Pine Canyon Lake community. They received a grant of $30,830 and exceeded a match with internal funds of $34,874. The total project will cost $65,704.

“In a time where Hoosiers are having to adjust their lifestyles due to COVID-19, it’s imperative that we connect as many Hoosiers as possible,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.

“Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative is a significant step toward bridging the digital divide and bringing greater opportunities for all Hoosiers.”