Capital Projects Fund Continues to Advance State Broadband Plans

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, September 9, 2022

Digital Beat

Capital Projects Fund Continues to Advance State Broadband Plans

On August 30, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the approval of an additional five states under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Arkansas. Previously, Treasury announced awards in June and July. To date, the Capital Projects Fund has awarded approximately $1.4 billion to states that will be invested in high-speed internet infrastructure estimated to reach nearly 400,000 homes and businesses.

The $10 billion Capital Projects Fund was created by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic to support eligible governments carry out critical capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency. Although states may use funds for certain other capital projects, such as multi-purpose community facilities, a key priority of the program is to make funding available for reliable, affordable broadband infrastructure and other digital connectivity technology projects. 

As Treasury has announced the approval of states' Capital Projects Fund plans, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has been taking a closer look at how each state is working to close the digital divide.

Broadband is the Future of New Hampshire: Only 30 percent of New Hampshire have access to fiber-optic service and only about 7 percent have access to 1-gig service. The state has created the Broadband Contract Program, overseen by the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, to offer broadband service providers a financial incentive to bring service to unserved and underserved addresses in the state—areas/addresses where it may be financially detrimental for providers to attempt to expand. The state will use $50 million of its Capital Projects Fund allotment for broadband deployment, helping to bring service to half of the locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state. In New Hampshire is All-In for Broadband, we see that New Hampshire is the first state to gain approval for a second wave of Capital Projects Fund support. The state is using all of its Capital Projects Fund allotment in an effort to connect 80% of locations in the state still lacking high-speed internet access.

North Dakota is Expanding Broadband's Reach with Capital Projects Fund: North Dakota is using 40% of its Capital Projects Fund allocation to connect nearly 4,000 unserved locations in the state. Treasury approved the state's plan to use $45 million in Capital Projects Fund support for a competitive grant program, Broadband North Dakota. 

Arkansas Uses Capital Projects Fund to Connect Rural Areas: In 2019, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) laid out a goal of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload broadband deployed to population centers of 500 or more by 2022. This goal was to be realized with the help of both state and federal funding programs and the newly minted Arkansas State Broadband Office. The state is using Capital Projects Fund support for the Arkansas Rural Connect Program. Arkansas is aiming to provide 5,500 locations with reliable internet of at least 100/20 Mbps but with the goal of achieving 100/100 Mbps symmetrical service. 

Capital Projects Fund Helps Build Nebraska's Broadband Bridge: In May 2021, the state enacted the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act, a law aimed at bringing fast, reliable broadband connectivity to an estimated 30,000 households. The law created the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program to facilitate and fund the deployment of broadband networks in unserved and underserved areas of Nebraska. On August 30, 2022, the U.S. Treasury approved Nebraska's plan to invest $87.7 million in broadband infrastructure projects. The state estimates that the investment, 68% of its total Capital Projects Fund allocation, will help connect 23% of the locations in Nebraska that still lack broadband service.

Capital Projects Fund Helps Link Indiana to the World: Indiana is using 92% of its total Capital Projects Fund allocation to bring high-speed internet to 50,349 locations—7.4% of the locations in the state still lacking broadband—through the state's Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program. Next Level Connections is designed to provide funds for the deployment of broadband infrastructure to provide eligible broadband service to unserved end users, which include households, businesses and community anchor institutions, such as schools and health clinics, across Indiana.

Broadband is Key to Connecticut's Future: On August 30, 2022, Connecticut was approved to use $40.8 million in Capital Projects Funds support to connect 10,000 homes and businesses to affordable broadband through the Connecticut Broadband Infrastructure Program. The state is focusing on low-income and multi-family homes and businesses and areas lacking reliable high-speed internet connections.

U.S. Treasury Helps Accelerate Broadband Deployment in Kansas: People living in rural Kansas have been concerned about their lack of access to reliable broadband for over 20 years. Capital Projects Fund support will add $83.5 million to the state's Broadband Acceleration Grant Program which targets areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without state or federal funding support. Run through the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program, this competitive grant program gives priority to applications that address unserved areas, economically distressed communities, and areas of compelling need.

Treasury's Capital Projects Fund Boosts Maryland's Network Infrastructure Grant Program: The Maryland Network Infrastructure Grant Program is intended to provide financial assistance to internet service providers to construct the broadband infrastructure necessary to provide symmetrical 100 Mbps service in areas where broadband service does not currently exist. Grant funds may be used to construct the infrastructure necessary to deploy service to residents, businesses and anchor institutions. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Maryland is using $95 million in Capital Projects Fund support to connect 16,667 homes and businesses through the Network Infrastructure Grant Program.

Treasury Support Helps Connect Maine: Maine's once separate broadband authorities—the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME) and Maine Connectivity Authority—have merged. The Maine Connectivity Authority has the ability to own physical infrastructure and steward partnerships itself, unlike ConnectME which is grant-focused. Using $110 million from the Capital Projects Fund, the Maine Connectivity Authority will work to ensure three goals: 1) Make effective, accessible connectivity universally available in the state; 2) Secure, affordable, reliable, competitive, and sustainable forward-looking infrastructure to meet future needs; and 3) Ensure all residents, businesses and institutions in Maine are able to take full advantage of the economic, health, educational, and other opportunities available through connectivity services.

Border-to-Border Broadband for Minnesota: 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. Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is the state's financial tool to assist in addressing the primary cause for the lack of broadband in unserved areas: high costs and lower population densities produced business plans that were not sustainable and thus broadband installations were not feasible. The Border-to-Border is a competitive matching capital grant program to address the financial gap. The Capital Projects Fund is giving Border-to-Border a $68.4 million boost.

American Rescue Plan Fuels Virginia's Universal Broadband Efforts: Virginia's goal is universal broadband coverage before the end of the decade. With Capital Projects Fund support the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will oversee a competitive grantmaking program, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI). Virginia estimates that investments made using the Capital Projects Fund will serve 28% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the Commonwealth.

Treasury Helps Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana: Louisiana is aiming to close the digital divide in the state by 2029. Getting there could cost over $1 billion. Capital Projects Fund support will fuel the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO), Louisiana’s multiphase broadband infrastructure competitive grant program. Louisiana estimates that investments made using the Capital Projects Fund will serve 25% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state.

Capital Projects Fund Aids West Virginia's Billion Dollar Broadband Strategy: In October 2021, Governor Jim Justice (R-WV) announced a billion-dollar strategy to bring broadband access to 200,000 homes and businesses in West Virginia. This week, the plan got a $136 million boost with support from the Capital Projects Fund. The federal funding helps connect 10% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state. 

Eligible states, territories, and freely associated states have until September 24, 2022 to submit Capital Projects Fund grant plans to Treasury for approval. Treasury will continue approving plans on a rolling basis.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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