On Monday, September 26, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Director of Research and Fellowships Dr. Revati Prasad hosted an online panel discussion, From the Ground Up: Broadband Mapping By and for Communities, on how communities and states are collecting data on local broadband availability as the Federal Communications Commission rolls out the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) program.
When it comes to broadband, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is about more than money. For example, Congress also directed the Federal Communications Commission to consider the impact of the law's $65 billion broadband investment on the FCC's existing broadband support programs under the umbrella of the Universal Service Fund (known to wonks as the USF).
By statute, Minnesota's goal is that, no later than 2022, all Minnesota homes and businesses have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. And, no later than 2026, all Minnesota homes and businesses will have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 20 Mbps. Moreover, Minnesota has set state goals for how it will compare to other regions. By 2022, the state plans to be in:
Since 2005, Maine has recognized the importance of adequate internet service to everyday life and commerce, in both urban and rural areas of the state. On July 14, the US Department of Treasury approved the state's plan to connect 22,500 homes and businesses through Maine Infrastructure Ready. Maine has two similar, but separate broadband authorities: the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME) and Maine Connectivity Authority. The Maine Connectivity Authority will oversee Maine Infrastructure Ready, a competitive broadband infrastructure grant program.
Maryland wants broadband networks to reach everyone in the state. Its efforts got a boost this week when the US Department of the Treasury approved the state's plan to apply 55 percent of its allocation from the Capital Projects Fund towards broadband deployment. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that just 2.6 percent of Marylanders lack access to broadband networks that can deliver speeds of 25 Mbps downloads and 3 Mbps uploads.
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.