WASHINGTON, April 14, 2022 — The head of the Commerce Department agency responsible for more than $43 billion in federal broadband infrastructure funding said that the Biden administration wouldn’t be satisfied until every American had access to low-cost and broadband internet at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mpbs upload.
Speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Club event on Wednesday, National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Alan Davidson said that in order to truly eliminate the digital divide, state engagement and leadership was necessary to maximize federal funding.
Money coming down from the from the NTIA through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act must be flexible, including extensive private contributions to projects.
“We expect there will be flexibility,” Davidson said about how much private communications companies and state funding should go toward projects. “The statute gives them that flexibility. It’s not a one-size-fits-all at all,”
The IIJA – which gives the NTIA $42.5 billion to distribute among states – requires network operators to match at least 25 percent of project costs funded by the Commerce agency’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. But states could require more than a 25 percent match, Davidson said.
“There are a lot of folks out there that – if you just give them little bit more support – would be willing to do that next deployment,” Davidson said. A lot of the funding won in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction will go to companies that committed to covering at least 50% of project costs, he noted.
“We’ve been talking about closing the digital divide in this country for over twenty years,” he said, recommending states “reach out” to the NTIA for guidance.
“When this project is done, everyone in America will have access to high-speed, affordable broadband” said Davidson, referring specifically to the 100 Mbps x 20 Mbps definition of high-speed broadband in IIJA.
Davidson also said that “there’s a need for political leadership to be engaging [and] to understand the importance of [the IIJA].
“One of the biggest areas that we’re investing in is in the folks we’re going to be working with in the states,” he said. “The broadband offices in the states are going to be the key front line for a lot of this work.”
The NTIA requested comments on the IIJA, with the due date being February 4. It is planning on requesting additional comments later on for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program.
To read more, please visit: https://broadbandbreakfast.com/2022/04/infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act-will-close-digital-divide-if-states-are-prepared-says-alan-davidson/