$45 billion up for grabs in nationwide broadband initiative
The Biden administration’s “Internet for All” effort to provide affordable high-speed Internet to everyone in the U.S. moved a step closer to reality this week. On Friday, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo traveled to Durham, North Carolina to announce that applications have opened for states to request $45 billion in federal funds to develop broadband across the United States. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will oversee the effort.
“In the 21st century, you simply cannot participate in the economy if you don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” said Secretary Raimondo.
“It does a family no good if there’s broadband in their community, but they can’t afford it,” said Raimondo at a previous event. “Closing the digital divide means both providing the broadband and making sure it’s affordable.”
On Friday the NTIA announced Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs), throwing open the doors for states to begin the allocation process. That starts with the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, a $42.45 billion program to fund planning and deployment of high-speed internet access throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories.
By submitting a letter of intent and a planning funds budget, states will unlock $5 million in funds to develop five-year deployment and adoption strategies, according to NTIA.
“ Each state will have direct support from dedicated NTIA staff through every step of the process. Each participating state is guaranteed a minimum $100 million allocation, with additional funding determinations made based on the forthcoming coverage maps from the Federal Communications Commission,” said the organization.
The government has also set aside $1 billion to help states, utilities, and others to build, acquire, or improve middle-mile infrastructure. Another $1.5 billion will fund State Digital Equity Act programs: efforts to “heighten adoption and use, like digital literacy training, for those who need it most, including communities of color, rural communities, and older Americans,” according to the administration.
In August, 2021 the NTIA established two new broadband offices to help coordinate its efforts: the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) and within it, the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI). OICG had to be established per Congressional mandate and it will be the central coordinating point for all broadband-related activities at NTIA, including its Broadband USA outreach, technical support and mapping effort, and its three active broadband grant programs: The Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.
At the time, the organization said it had received more than 230 applications for funding through the Broadband Infrastructure Program totaling more than $2.5 billion, with only about $288 million available directly through the NTIA. Congress would pass the $1 trillion infrastructure package later than year and President Biden signed it into law in November. The $45 billion to pay for Internet for All represents most of the $65 billion in broadband money allocated to the $1 trillion infrastructure plan.