broadband

Bipartisan infrastructure act includes billions for regional innovation

Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure framework, formally, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, and President Joe Biden is expected to sign it the week of Nov. 15. While small as a percentage of the trillion-dollar total, there are a number of proposed items that can support regional innovation economies, with broadband being the highest funded.

New broadband mapping tool announced in Illinois

Gov. J.B Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) have announced a new project for interactive broadband mapping and speed test tools that is intended to help expand access to high-speed internet in communities across Illinois. The project entails the creation of the interactive Connect Illinois Broadband Map and the Illinois Broadband Lab.

FCC commits additional $421 million in off-campus learning support to bridge the pandemic “homework gap”

A $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) was established by the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act to help ease the educational impact on students of school closures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. While much instruction transitioned to an online environment, many students were inadequately equipped to properly participate. To address issues with access to technology, the program provides funding to schools and libraries across the nation to purchase connected devices and equipment needed for students to use off-campus. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) latest commitment of $421 million brings the program’s total funding to more than $3 billion.

FCC announces second round of RDOF broadband funding; pulls back other offers

The Federal Communications Commission announced its second round of funding for new broadband investments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). It also revealed that it is “continuing its work to refocus the program to ensure that funding goes to unserved areas that need broadband,” and as a result dozens of winning bidders from the previous round have “chosen not to pursue buildout … .”

Regional innovation highlights in infrastructure bill

Editor’s note: The Senate passed the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act on Aug. 10, 2021. This article has been updated to reflect the final amendments and new information on next steps for the legislation.

Innovative ways companies are looking to close digital divide

In a previous article, SSTI detailed the limitations of public funding in solving the country’s rural broadband issue. While increased public funding is certainly part of the equation to bring internet capabilities to the near 14 million people who do not have access, there is potential to leverage new innovative technologies to bridge the broadband gap across America.

State leaders zero in on recovery in budget proposals, state addresses

As state budgets move into the legislatures for final negotiations and approvals, the last of the governors have addressed their constituents and put forth their proposals. While a renewed sense of hope is seeping into the latest addresses, governors are still cautious and guarded in proposing new programs. Broadband, small business, education and workforce initiatives continue to be among the innovation-related initiatives announced by the state leaders, with the intent that those efforts will also boost the economic recovery of the states.

A look at the state-level focus on broadband

While the new administration is rolling out a new infrastructure proposal that includes $100 billion over an 8-year period for greater broadband coverage and affordability, the states have been busy in 2021 with their own broadband proposals. Governors across the country are responding to the digital divide that became even more obvious during the pandemic as students struggled to access online learning, individuals turned to the internet for telehealth appointments, and much of the workforce pivoted to remote work arrangements.

Innovation and new opportunity front and center in the American Jobs Plan

As noted in our separate overview, the 25-page American Jobs Plan provides goals, highlights and proposals, but also raises questions about how proposals would be implemented and even exactly how much money would be spent.

Public funding alone not enough to expand rural broadband

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that nearly one-fourth of the rural population —14.5 million people — lack access to broadband services. In tribal areas, nearly one-third of the population lacks access. Even in areas where broadband is available, approximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe to services.

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