Commerce’s Raimondo on how the U.S. will spend $65 billion on broadband

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WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Businesshala) – US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday detailed plans to spend $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability, a key part of the Biden administration’s new infrastructure bill.

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The bill’s authors say 19 million Americans do not have access to high-speed Internet. Raimondo said the administration’s goal is for “every single American” to have access to high-speed affordable broadband, “which means really affordable.”

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The bill includes a grant of $42.45 billion to expand physical access to broadband, including building fiber or other networks.

The bill automatically awards each state $100 million that can be used for technical assistance, for a total of $5 billion to build state broadband offices or other efforts.

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The remaining $42 billion will be allocated by Raimondo’s agency to states using a formula-based grant program, and a low-cost plan offered to all recipients of the funds.

“Show us a plan that guarantees that every single person in your state has access to high-speed affordable Internet,” Raimondo said. Projects must meet a minimum speed requirement of 100/20 megabits per second.

He said that it will take few months for the states to get the money and it will come only after the states submit the plans approved by the department.

All recipients must offer a low-cost plan and states must address all of their unserved sectors before they are able to fund deployment projects in underserved areas. “We have to make sure we don’t spend this money on overbuildings,” Raimondo said.

She stressed that Americans would not see this spending in their communities immediately. “We want to get this right. It’s more important than rushing to get this right…. Not everyone will have broadband a year from now.”

Biden initially proposed $100 billion for broadband, and the White House acknowledged in May that with $65 billion, it would take much longer to increase access to all Americans.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said the government funding will “pave the way for universal connectivity in unserved areas, to make broadband affordable for low-income households, and to provide more resources for digital equity and adoption.”

Comcast said the funding is appropriately focused “on acquiring broadband infrastructure in areas where it does not currently exist, while at the same time continuing to promote faster speeds and discourage duplicative projects.”

more affordable broadband

The new infrastructure bill also includes $14.2 billion for the Federal Communications Commission to provide a new permanent $30 per month voucher for low-income families to use any Internet service plan of their choice.

It expands on a $3.2 billion temporary COVID-19 pandemic program called Emergency Broadband Benefit currently used by about 7.4 million US households and provides a $50-a-month subsidy. The new program expands eligibility to more low-income families.

This year’s Pew Research survey found that minority and low-income households are less likely to have home internet. According to the survey, less than 60% of adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 have home internet.

As the government spends billions funded in the bill, Raimondo vowed it would be transparent. “Every single state plan has to be put online, so that you can think of every detail of every plan,” she said.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler

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