VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) — AT&T officials say they have completed their fiber broadband build in Vanderburgh County where 20,000 addresses have access to broadband.

AT&T says they are helping close a digital divide in the community, and funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2020 helped subsidize the effort.

AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards says these thousands of addresses now have access to delivery speeds up to 100 times faster than what they had before.

Vanderburgh County Commission Cheryl Musgrave says many factions of life like education, farming and healthcare is performed from a computer or other devices in some way.

“Today is the end of a successful contract. It’s the start of new opportunities for everyone who has access to AT&T’s fiber,” Commissioner Musgrave said. “Every part of the 21st Century life is surrounded by computers and dependent upon the speed of access.”

St. Joseph 5th Grade Teacher Angie Will says some “old school” teaching methods could not work when he COVID-19 pandemic hit. She says devices buffering are among issues people in rural communities face, and a program like broadband can have students benefit from online learning.

“We’d be in the middle of a Zoom where I would actually be teaching a lesson and I’d drop students right and left,” Will said. “Our hop is that all of our students will be able to be on at one time, and — I think — that’s what our school is looking most forward to.”

Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch says broadband — especially in rural Indiana — is critical and essential.

With this kind of initiative, she says the playing field for internet access is more equal.

“When we talk about unincorporated Vanderburgh County — that’s the area outside the City of Evansville, which is pretty rural,” Lieutenant Governor Crouch said. “Those people today now have the same opportunities as people that live in the City of Evansville.”

Lieutenant Governor Crouch also tells Eyewitness News that after the pandemic her office hears from constituents all over Indiana who say they have concerns about internet access.

AT&T says it is working to add fiber optics in other parts of Indiana — including the City of Boonville.