Since President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure act into law last week, state broadband officials have expressed optimism that its $65 billion in broadband funding can close their digital divides for good.
Despite nearly 70,000 North Carolina households and businesses conducting internet connection speed tests as part of a year-long survey, the state “still has a lot more to do” before it can begin a $1 billion broadband expansion, according to state officials. The survey, launched in July 2020 by North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute, found that at least 450,000 households, or roughly 10 percent of the state, lacks adequate broadband coverage.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program continues to have a positive impact on many communities nationwide, but persistent challenges to accessing the benefit limit full participation.
Tennessee will spend $500 million of its funding from the American Rescue Plan to expand broadband, though exactly where the money goes hinges on a statewide coverage map that’s still being developed.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Agriculture are spending $8 million to build a rural broadband testing site in Ames, Iowa, that both industry engineers and researchers from Iowa State University plan to use for developing wireless technologies and piloting rural connectivity strategies.
There is an ongoing need to improve broadband data collections with community-level perspectives, affordability metrics, and adoption rates. Inaccurate federal broadband mapping data impacts broadband deployment efforts throughout the United States states and its territories. Using Federal Communications Commission data, state mapping, and submissions from local leaders, this report provides a state-by-state review of broadband access.
Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel offered measured confidence about expanding broadband connectivity in schools following the pandemic. Addressing a virtual roundtable meeting of local officials from around Maryland, Chairwoman Rosenworcel promoted a trio of programs funded by Congress and the FCC aimed at improving connectivity for disadvantaged schools and communities.
As local governments begin to look at the communications networks present in their communities, they must not only focus on how to expand them so that all their citizens are connected but develop strategies to ensure that they remain operational under the most stressful conditions. During a natural disaster, cellular and broadband connections are used to get weather updates, procure information regarding evacuations, shelter in place orders, or other governmental alerts that are intended to keep citizens appraised of the current situation.
The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing applications from internet service providers to join the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program has already received more than 380 applications from broadband providers interested in offering discounted services, though a program start date hasn’t been set. The FCC will send eligible households $50 per month for broadband service and as much as a $100 one-time benefit for a new computer or tablet.
The New Jersey Department of Education announced that the state has entirely closed its digital divide among students, connecting every K-12 public school student with the devices and broadband necessary to participate in digital classrooms. A survey of New Jersey school districts conducted by the state’s education department at the onset of the pandemic revealed that more than 100,000 students in the state could not access the internet at home and that school districts would need more than 150,000 additional devices to serve their students.