The U.S. House of Representatives late on Friday, November 5, passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill earmarks $1.2 trillion in funding for a variety of infrastructure projects, including $65 billion for improving broadband access and quality.
The broadband expansion funding will become available through a variety of programs, administration of which will be split among NTIA, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
According to a list provided by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), the funding includes:
- The $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD), overseen by NTIA. Grants will be given to each state based on the number of unserved locations within their borders, with at least $100 million reserved for each state. However, NTIA will not be able to proceed until the FCC creates and releases an updated broadband location map, which will confirm the number and location of unserved areas.
- The $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program, under the supervision of the FCC, will extend and modify the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, including a $30/month broadband subsidy for low-income and other in-need consumers.
- The $2.75 billion Digital Equity Program, under NTIA’s purview, will focus on enduring that individuals and communities have adequate “information technology capacity.”
- $2 billion added to the RUS ReConnect programs.
- $2 billion added to the Tribal Broadband Program, a NTIA responsibility.
- $1 billion for a new NTIA program to build middle-mile infrastructure.
- $0.6 billion for tax exempt Private Activity Bonds (PABs) to help states and municipalities to enhance broadband deployments.
Praise for the bill’s passage came swiftly, particularly from broadband advocates.
“The Fiber Broadband Association applauds Congress for passing the bipartisan infrastructure package and taking the historic and necessary step to invest into our nations’ broadband infrastructure and the people that will be able to leverage it daily,” commented FBA President and CEO Gary Bolton. “Today’s affirmative vote enables the nation to embrace digital equity for generations to come. Americans must have access to fiber broadband if they are to participate fully in our society, economy, and civic affairs and we appreciate this legislative milestone as the vote to invest $65B in broadband is a vote for the American future.”
ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka, commented, “ACA Connects appreciates the U.S. House of Representatives’ work to address the broadband needs of consumers across the country. Our member companies, who provide broadband service to urban and rural customers in all 50 states, know just how vital broadband is. They have worked to upgrade and extend their networks to reach the unserved, and they have developed programs to connect in-need consumers. To that end, ACA Connects appreciates that the legislation targets deployment of funding in a technologically neutral way to where it is most needed—to unserved and underserved areas—with a robust challenge process to limit overbuilding, and dedicates funds to get low-income consumers connected, giving them the critical communications tools they need for school, work, and other day-to-day needs.”