An announcement from the US Treasury this Tuesday suggested how four US states would receive over half a billion dollars in federal funding for the expansion of their broadband access. This would be part of the integral national effort to bring affordable service to rural and low income citizens of the US.
The first ones to benefit from this part of $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund are New Hampshire, Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia. Expectantly, this is set to bring internet service to these states’ 200,000 homes and businesses. This fund is part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package which President Joe Biden signed last year in March.
“There has never been anything like the pandemic to create a national teaching moment that we cannot have equal economic and educational opportunity unless all Americans and all regions, from urban to rural America, have access to high-speed affordable internet service,” Gene Sperling, stated.
The amount West Virginia is supposed to receive is $136.3 million, along with Virginia receiving a sum of $219.8 million. Louisiana and New Hampshire would receive $176.7 million and $50 million respectively in the Capital Projects Fund Money. Senator Joe Manchin stated how this would create a ‘tremendous dent’ in the broadband deployment that the rural state of West Virginia needs, whose largest city is 50,000.
Estimates from the Federal Communications Commission shows how over 250,000 of the fewer than 2 million people in West Virginia do not have broadband access. Moreover, he pointed how it is possible that more people than the estimate could be unconnected. He stated how without the connectivity, it would not be possible to ‘recover folks’ from pandemic or inspire new development in such states.
“There’s no excuse in the world for all of America, especially rural America, not to be connected,” Manchin said. “And if we let this time pass, God help us all.”
Notably, the initial wave of funding for broadband to the states and territories, along with tribal government has certain requirements. These include service providers to build out their network offer discounts to their users, providing service at both upload and download speeds of a minimum of 100 mbps. Moreover, they must also take part in the FCC’s new Affordable Connectivity Program. This specifies how households with incomes below or at 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines have the provision of availing discounts of up to $30 a month, or $75 on tribal lands.
According to census data, about 16% of West Virginia citizens live below the poverty line i.e.,$27,750 in annual income for a family consisting four members. Moreover, the fund is not the sole federal allocation for broadband. As an extension of the American Rescue Plan, along with bipartisan infrastructure law, billions in addition were approved.
Virginia Democrat Mark Warner stated how the all this while, they had not appropriately used the ‘federal dollars.’ Particularly, some networks were only built out partially, with various programmes only providing only ‘episodic’ funding. In fact, some of the funds even went to startups that weren’t even aware of how to build out a network in the first place.
Hence, this particular programmes is well structured to ensure the proper reachability of the funds to its targets, as stated by supporters. State governments and the Treasury would have to team up diligently to make sure of the proper usage of the funding.