On March 15, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 which provides funding through September 30, 2022 for projects and activities of the Federal Government. Much of the coverage of the law highlights the $13.6 billion in funding to address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on surrounding countries. But there's also more funding for broadband in the new law.
February 4 was the deadline for written public input on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act broadband programs that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will administer. Much attention is rightly being paid to the many billions of dollars NTIA will distribute to states in the coming months to ensure broadband networks reach everyone in America. However, there's been less attention given to a provision in the new law creating a new vehicle for broadband deployment: private activity bonds.
As Congress found in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life in the United States. The aim of the Affordable Connectivity Program is to ensure broadband is affordable for any household no matter its income. Although the Federal Communications Commission has met an incredibly tight timeline to adopt rules and launch the new Affordable Connectivity Program, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Here's a quick look at what remains on the FCC's agenda.
Congress created the Affordable Connectivity Program through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, building on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program created earlier in 2021. For the EBB Program, Congress provided the Federal Communications Commission with $3.2 billion to make monthly broadband service bills more affordable for low-income households. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act adds an additional $14.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program, while leaving in place the EBB Program's basic framework.
Rosenworcel & Davidson: With Leadership in Place, NTIA and FCC Must Now Work Together to Close the Digital Divide
On January 11, the U.S. Senate voted 60-31 to confirm the nomination of Alan Davidson to be the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. Once sworn in, Davidson will lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is President Joe Biden's principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy.
In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the largest U.S. investment ever in broadband access, affordability, and adoption. With $65 billion flowing to broadband, Congress also asked the Federal Communications Commission to determine what impact the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will have in achieving universal service goals for broadband. This week, the FCC launched a proceeding seeking public comment on how to best make sure everyone in the U.S. can use broadband.
Technology is a tool, a tool that can be used, if distributed equitably, to improve society. At the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, we are not for broadband just for broadband’s sake. In the "Broadband & Society" part of our name, we recognize that in our increasingly digital lives, equitable access to broadband and a just society are inseparable. Broadband's potential, its promise, is not just quicker communication, but improving education, healthcare, job training and acquisition, economic development, delivering government services, and so much more.
Last week, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that on November 24, USDA will begin accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to expand the availability of broadband in rural areas. USDA's Rural Utilities Service is making the funding available through the ReConnect Program and plans to make ava
As the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act awaits a vote in the House of Representatives later this month, a debate over the future of the Federal Communications Commission's Universal Service Fund (USF) is already starting. Provisions in the infrastructure bill call for the FCC to quickly complete an evaluation of how the legislation will impact how the FCC's achieves the goal of deploying broadband to all Americans. Congress wants to know how the FCC can be more effective in achieving this goal. One brewing USF issue is how we pay for it.
New research from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South, highlights the importance of addressing the digital divide—and doing it as soon as possible. The Joint Center examined the overlooked and unique plight of Black residents in rural counties with populations that are at least 35 percent Black (152 counties in 10 Southern states), which the Joint Center refers to as the “Black Rural So