How the Capital Projects Fund Can Help Your State Close the Digital Divide
Friday, July 22, 2022
How the Capital Projects Fund Can Help Your State Close the Digital Divide
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.
Round-Up for the Week of July 18-22, 2022
On July 14, the U.S. Department of the Treasury approved the plans of Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota to use Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund support to help close the digital divide. Combined with the approval of Louisiana's, New Hampshire's, Virginia's, and West Virginia's plans in June, Treasury has announced nearly $1 billion in support to connect nearly 250,000 locations in the eight states.
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has been taking a closer look at how the Capital Projects Fund support fits into the overall universal broadband plans of each state since they all have their own approach to closing the digital divide. Elements of these states' efforts could be incorporated into other states' plans as they consider how to employ federal dollars to achieve universal broadband access.
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 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 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 has two similar, but separate broadband authorities: the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME) and Maine Connectivity Authority. 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.
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.
So far Treasury has approved states' plans that use less than $1 billion of the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund. States must submit their plans to Treasury by September 24, 2022. Even any of the eight states above that have not submitted plans for their full use of Capital Projects Fund support have until this deadline to submit plans for the remainder of their funds.
- All 50 States, U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia Join Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All Initiative (NTIA)
- Vice President Harris Marks Important New Milestone in Administration’s Efforts to Cut Costs for American Families (White House)
- FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Proposes to Increase Minimum Broadband Speeds (FCC)
- Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support Authorized for 1,605 Winning Bids (FCC)
- FCC Announces Supply Chain Reimbursement Program Approved Applications (FCC)
- FCC needs an additional $3 billion for Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program (FCC)
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
- 2022 Student Connectivity Study Findings (CoSN)
- A street-by-street view of digital inequity in the United States (Microsoft)
- How far might broadband funding go? Estimating and visualizing the BEAD program (Mike Conlow)
ICYMI from Benton
- Accelerate: A Community Broadband Planning Program (Bill Coleman)
- Putting State Broadband Funds to Work: Best Practices In State Rural Broadband Grant Programs (Ryland Sherman, Joanne Hovis, and Jacob Levin)
- How Fixed-Wireless Technologies Compare to Fiber (Andrew Afflerbach)
- The Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship: A Participatory Action Research Project (Colin Rhinesmith)
- The Wires That Bind (Adam Echelman)
- High Court Blunders & Blinders (Michael Copps)
Jul 27—NEPA, Historical Preservation, and Climate Resiliency (NTIA)
Jul 27—Executive Session (Senate Commerce Committee)
Aug 9—Digital Divide Forum (Fierce)
Aug 15—BEAD Program Requests for Initial Planning Funds Due (NTIA)
Sep 24—Capital Projects Fund Grant Plan Deadline (Department of Treasury)
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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