LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ind.– RTC Communications broke ground Tuesday on a fiber internet expansion project, one of three broadband projects planned for the county, all of which will use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Lawrence County received $4.4 million in ARPA funds, according to Lawrence County Commissioner Dustin Gabhart. Gabhart said the money will be split for all three planned broadband projects.

The county awarded RTC communications $950,000 of ARPA money for its project. The rest of the roughly $3.1 million will be split into two projects spearheaded by AT&T. The commissioner said each project must be completed within two years of breaking ground, and that the county will divvy out all ARPA funds by the end of 2026.

He also said that 4,000 residents in some of the most rural parts of Lawrence County will benefit from all three projects combined, and that the projects would not be possible without the ARPA funds.

State Sen. Eric Koch represents Lawrence County and chairs the Interim Study Committee on Utilities, Energy, and Telecommunications. He said he anticipates other counties will also use ARPA funds to expand internet access before the allocation deadline of Dec. 31, 2024.

”We now have a better understanding than we did a decade ago where these voids are, so I do think that this is a model, it’s consistent with our policies over the past five or six years as we’ve administered state grant funds,” State Sen. Koch said.

Sen. Koch also said over the next several years the state of Indiana could receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal BEAD (Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment) funding. Those dollars will be divvied out nationwide starting next year.