Treasury Fund is Not Just for Rural Broadband

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Federal Communications Commissioner Brandon Carr released an extraordinary statement worth reading. Carr is taking exception to the final rules from the Treasury Department concerning how communities can use the $350 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The commissioner is asking states to somehow intervene in the way that cities, counties, and towns elect to use these funds. Carr states, “The Administration’s rules green-light spending to overbuild existing, high-speed networks in communities that already have fast Internet service, rather than directing those dollars to the rural and other communities that lack access to any broadband service today.” I take exception to this for several reasons. First, I think the final Treasury rules are following the intent of Congress that wrote the enabling legislation. Congress included broadband as a possible use for the funds. If Congress had intended this funding to be used only for rural broadband, the legislation would have said so. But broadband is listed as an acceptable use for every community, including cities. I’m not sure how Commissioner Carr thinks that ARPA money given to Detroit, Baltimore, or New York City could be used to support rural broadband. Commissioner Carr’s plea to the states ultimately doesn’t mean much since local communities are free to use the ARPA funds without any approval from the states.

[Doug Dawson is President of CCG Consulting.]

ARPA is Not Just for Rural Broadband