President Biden’s big broadband ambitions mean historic hurdles for NTIA

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On January 11, the Senate confirmed Google and Mozilla alum Alan Davidson as director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The agency will steer $48 billion in federal funding for broadband deployment, a massive sum that will test its capacity. Former NTIA chiefs David Redl and Larry Irving highlighted what they see as the biggest hurdles for Davidson and the agency’s upcoming agenda. With NTIA receiving a massive cash infusion for broadband grants, scrutiny from lawmakers on Capitol Hill about how that money is dolled out is likely to reach new heights. That’s particularly true given that most of the grants NTIA will oversee will be for projects at the state level, where lawmakers may have their own constituents in mind, according to Redl. To make high-speed Internet “affordable and available everywhere,” as President Biden pledged, federal officials will need to determine which areas across the country are most in need of grants. But the federal government’s aging maps on Internet connectivity will pose a major obstacle. Irving called the current mapping situation “a disaster” and said that updating the Federal Communications Commission’s maps must be done “well and quickly” to avoid wasting funds. While the broadband build-out will be NTIA’s biggest task, lawmakers and advocates have also been pushing for the agency to take a more active role on data privacy and cybersecurity. That could test the agency’s ability to juggle different priorities.

Biden’s big broadband ambitions mean historic hurdles for NTIA