Millions of Americans who have struggled to connect to the internet may soon find it easier to connect to the internet, thanks to a funding infusion from the federal government passed in late 2021.
President Joe Biden announced the funding Monday at the White House and pledged, “With this funding, along with other federal investments, we will be able to connect every person in America to reliable high-speed Internet by 2030.”
He likened the immense task of getting everyone online in America to the electrification of farmland across the country that occurred in the early 20th century.
The White House says more than $40 billion will go to states and tribal territories with the goal of enabling every US household and business to have access to reliable broadband Internet connection. According to the FCC, more thanand businesses lack access to high-speed broadband.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo spoke with senior White House chief and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe about what that means in practical terms.
“To make a telehealth visit from your kitchen table or let your kids do their homework or work remotely… tens and millions of Americans can’t do that now,” he said.
The $42.5 billion allocation is the bulk of the $65 billion in funding set aside for broadband internet investment outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by Biden in November 2021.
Raimondo noted that there are currently about 8.5 million American households that don’t have the Internet, but for “tens of millions more who have the Internet, … it’s really poor quality.”
“They might have a satellite connection, … that shuts down when the weather is bad or some sort of dial-up,” he added.
“This money can be used not only to lay the fiber, to connect people who are not connected, but also to improve the service to people and also for affordability,” continued Raimondo. “So, some people have high-quality internet for $200 a month. And so, what we’re saying to providers is that it might as well not exist. People can’t afford $200 a month, right? So the money is for pose fiber, but also to make sure everyone has high-quality internet at affordable prices.”
The announcement is welcome news for state broadband offices across the country. Each state will be awarded a minimum of $107 million, with additional awards ranging from $27 million to more than $3.3 billion, depending on their needs, according to a White House fact sheet. Texas is expected to receive the largest prize of $3.3 billion. California, Missouri, Michigan and North Carolina will each receive more than $1.5 billion.
While Monday’s announcement is celebrated by advocates of broadband Internet access and expansion, getting to this time presented some challenges.
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was tasked with allocating the funds based in part on data from a Federal Communications Commission map that has undergone a series of updates.
CBS News spoke to several state broadband Internet directors in the months leading up to the announcement who expressed frustration with the map, pointing to shortcomings ranging from missing locations to overrated connectivity. Concerns over the reliability of the FCC’s map previously led some lawmakers and broadband advocates to ask the NTIA to delay the end-June 2023 deadline for awarding funding, which the agency declined.
However, in a blog post earlier this month, the Commerce Department touted the most recent version of the FCC’s map as “the most accurate representation of broadband availability” in FCC history.
Broadband advocates like Rob Fish in Vermont, who has expressed concern about the FCC’s mapping process, are now confident to move forward with implementation plans.
“We are so grateful for all the work Vermonters have done challenging the inaccurate information on the FCC map, and we are now excited to come together to develop a plan to distribute nearly $230 million in BEAD funds,” said the Vermont Community Broadband Board Director Rob Fish. Thanks to that work and the work of the VCBB, our budget is probably up to $50 million more than it otherwise would have been!”
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