WASHINGTON, August 27, 2021 — Most of the energy around broadband policy has been focused on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which would allocate $65 billion in new spending. But with a vote on the measure in the House delayed until by September 27, it’s worth focusing on three other significant broadband programs being administered by the Commerce Department: The Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.
On that note, Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration – which is responsible for all three programs – on Wednesday announced the creation of two new broadband offices with the NTIA: The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, and the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives within the OICG.
The establishment of OICG fulfills requirements of the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, enacted into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. OICG will be led by NTIA civil servant Douglas Kinkoph, who has led NTIA’s broadband program since 2015 and stayed at the agency throughout the Trump administration.
In addition to running the three programs identified above, the new OICG will also house the agency’s activities operating under the BroadbandUSA moniker.
These were mostly low-budget efforts that provided community outreach, support for state leaders, technical assistance and coordination on federal broadband resources during the lean years – from 2015 until now – when NTIA didn’t have significant resources to run broadband initiatives.
“With this new organizational structure, we are prepared to make significant progress in closing the digital divide through our broadband programs, bringing us closer to President Biden’s goal of connecting all Americans to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet,” NTIA Acting Administrator Evelyn Remaley said in a Wednesday press release.
The Broadband Infrastructure Program
The window for government agencies to submit applications for the Broadband Infrastructure Program closed on August 17, and on Tuesday NTIA said it had received more than 230 applications, for more than $2.5 billion. Only $288 million will be awarded under these BIP grants. The funding was authorized by the 2021 appropriations measure.