GREENSBURG – The Community Foundations in Southeastern Indiana, including the Decatur County Community Foundation, are sharing the cost of a study to determine the region’s digital readiness.

The study by the Purdue University Center for Regional Development will provide a “State of Broadband” report for the nine-county region made up of Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, Shelby and Switzerland counties. The Southeastern Regional Planning Commission, which serves the region, is assisting with the report.

According to Purdue, 75 percent of Indiana households have a broadband internet subscription; however, only 68.9 percent of rural households have broadband.

“Broadband is an important tool for education, healthcare and overall economic development,” Decatur County Community Foundation Executive Director Tami Wenning said. “We’re pleased to be a part of this regional effort among community foundations to support this study aimed at providing the data to improve broadband service in our region.”

According to Purdue agricultural economics professor Larry DeBoer in “Purdue University Agriculture News” dated August, 2018: “We estimate if broadband investments were made in rural areas, $3.24 billion of the total net benefit of $12 billion would flow to the state and federal government through increased tax revenue and healthcare savings.”

“Income and sales tax revenues would increase, and telemedicine healthcare savings would reduce the costs of the Medicaid and Medicare programs as well,” DeBoer continued. “Broadband would provide benefit in a wide range of areas, many of which have tax revenue and savings implications for the government.”

The report will analyze the broadband footprint in the region, number of providers available, and other broadband-related information. It will also gauge the digital readiness level of households in the region.

Decatur County Farm Bureau President Patty Lange Fisher weighed in on the importance of the survey.

“For Decatur County, broadband access is key in economic growth, and will also have a positive impact on local education,” she said.

“I have already committed as a community foundation to help pay for a portion of the study, but the information gleaned from the study will be able to be shared with Farm Bureau and our local Economic Development office,” Wenning said.

Greensburg-Decatur County Economic Development Corporation Director Bryan Robbins said, “The expansion of broadband internet into rural areas will help even the playing field, so to speak, providing the same connectivity to county sites that families and businesses enjoy in more urban settings, and as with many large-scale communities endeavors, it’ll take partnerships to make it happen. It’s essential infrastructure that is needed now, and is necessary for the future of our county.”

A public survey will continue until Feb. 28 to get input from residents 18 and older who live in the nine-county region.

“Decatur County residents are encouraged to take the time to complete the seven to nine minute survey at www.purdue.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7P4bWmgvDWrN9el to help make the report even more meaningful,” Wenning concluded.

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Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com.