Illinois, New York Poised to Fumble Federal Broadband Funds

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The big monopoly incumbent providers are aiming their lobbying efforts to influence state lawmakers as states funnel federal funds into state broadband grant programs. In January 2022, Illinois State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-IL) introduced legislation in the Illinois General Assembly known as the Illinois Broadband Deployment, Equity, Access, and Affordability Act of 2022 (SB 3683). According to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the bill "proposes constraints on the use of federal funds that fly in the face of the clear language of federal law.” In New York, legislation is making its way through the New York state legislature that, while not openly violating Congressional intent the way the legislation introduced in Illinois does, does potentially limit the viability of municipal broadband projects. A subsection in the state Senate’s Transportation, Economic Development, and Environmental Control portion of the budget (S. 8008 B) directs the New York Broadband Grant Program, referred to as ConnectALL, to give preference to "proposals that have a business plan based on a public-private partnership model or provide a mechanism for transition of services to a private entity in the future." According to community broadband advocates in New York, bits of legalese like this can be as a Trojan horse that would make it difficult to fund municipal broadband proposals with unnecessary obstacles in place.

[Sean Gonsalves is senior reporter, editor and researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Network Initiative.]

Illinois (and Possibly New York) Poised to Fumble Federal Broadband Funds