Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
When it comes to broadband, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is about more than money. For example, Congress also directed the Federal Communications Commission to consider the impact of the law's $65 billion broadband investment on the FCC's existing broadband support programs under the umbrella of the Universal Service Fund (known to wonks as the USF).
By statute, 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. Moreover, Minnesota has set state goals for how it will compare to other regions. By 2022, the state plans to be in:
Since 2005, Maine has recognized the importance of adequate internet service to everyday life and commerce, in both urban and rural areas of the state. On July 14, the US Department of Treasury approved the state's plan to connect 22,500 homes and businesses through Maine Infrastructure Ready. Maine has two similar, but separate broadband authorities: the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME) and Maine Connectivity Authority. The Maine Connectivity Authority will oversee Maine Infrastructure Ready, a competitive broadband infrastructure grant program.
Maryland wants broadband networks to reach everyone in the state. Its efforts got a boost this week when the US Department of the Treasury approved the state's plan to apply 55 percent of its allocation from the Capital Projects Fund towards broadband deployment. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that just 2.6 percent of Marylanders lack access to broadband networks that can deliver speeds of 25 Mbps downloads and 3 Mbps uploads.
For years, people have quietly endured exploitative and increasingly expensive internet services while relying on crumbling infrastructure. That all changed recently when a new local cooperative built internet infrastructure in Southwest Detroit. This new internet option, a point-to-point mesh network, is run by organizers from Grace in Action. Created in 2015, the program is called the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) and is a partnership with the Detroit Community Technology Project.
As state and local governments and their partners plan to invest billions of dollars in federal funding to build broadband infrastructure, choosing the best technology will have significant long-term implications.
The Roman philosopher Seneca said that good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In what the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has called “our broadband moments,” preparation requires bold community leadership that moves a community to gather data and build trusted relationships allowing them to be ready to act when opportunity arises. President Biden has pledged to make sure that every American has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. Full participation in our twenty-first century economy requires no less.
If the federal government’s investments in broadband connectivity are to be effective, different programmatic pieces must work together. Broadband infrastructure funds are necessary to ensuring universal access, but not sufficient to achieve full digital equity. Equitable broadband adoption depends on people having the financial means to maintain service, which the Affordable Connectivity Plan (ACP) facilitates, as well as access to wrap-around digital inclusion services (such as tech support and skills training).
We're just a few days from Juneteenth, a holiday that reminds us of the critical connection between communications and equity. June 19 commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas first learned about the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Cut off from communications, slaves in Texas were deprived news of their freedom for over two and a half years. One hundred and fifty-seven years later, we can still see how lack of access to communications holds back individuals, families, and communities.