State & local policymakers: Concerned about how much federal broadband funding your area will receive? What’s your strategy in reviewing the FCC broadband map?

Since the widespread usage of the internet in the 1990s, the question of who has access to broadband and the definition of high-speed internet has bedeviled federal, state and local officials.  Attempts to map which addresses have access to high-speed service date back at least 20 years. The latest iteration, a new national broadband map released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be used to ensure that the $42.45 billion federal investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program makes its way to the areas most in need of broadband service when it is allocated to states on June 30. With challenges to the map due by Jan. 13, SSTI urges state and local policymakers to take a close look at the map and encourage your residents to provide feedback on the map.

FCC releases new broadband map, will determine funding allocation across the nation

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released the first draft of a new national broadband map providing a more granular look at broadband service throughout the country. The new broadband map was created to ensure that the $42.45 billion federal investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program makes its way to the areas most in need of broadband service when it is allocated to states on June 30. This program provides each state with at least $100 million and additional funds according to the number of unserved or underserved areas.

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. Other proposals of interest include funding that will stimulate demand for clean energy innovations, further cybersecurity development and reauthorizing the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

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. DCEO has partnered with stakeholders including the University of Illinois System, Illinois Innovation Network, and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society for this project.

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. Telecommunications companies and tech companies have developed many innovative ways to build out broadband capabilities in rural areas. In this article, SSTI analyzes some of the developing broadband innovations and solutions.

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. This week, we take a look at some of the new broadband proposals revealed in the governors’ State-of-the-State addresses or proposed budgets.


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