States are set to receive a historic influx of funding to expand high-speed Internet service thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The planning grants awarded in 2022 are down payments so the states can prepare to use the coming billions in broadband funding effectively. See the Guide
Each state has different needs and unique challenges in bridging the digital divide, and our planning grants recognize the importance of flexibility. Still, there are broad trends driving the ways states are putting this money to use.
Understanding the digital divide – States are using the funding to identify unserved and underserved locations within their borders.
- That means finding areas that don’t have access to the Internet at speeds of 25/3 Mbps (unserved) or 100/20 Mbps (underserved).
- States will ultimately decide where funding will flow within their communities – using these planning grants to help determine the areas of greatest need will ensure this funding achieves the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s primary goal of connecting all unserved and underserved locations to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.
Beefing up broadband offices – All 50 states have a broadband office or program now, but many are using federal funding to add staff and capacity.
- State broadband offices will often be the key decision makers in how each state will design its funding programs.
- Offices are also taking a leading role in writing the 5-year action plans required by law ahead of receiving additional infrastructure funding.
Investing in inclusion – It's not enough to simply build the networks. States are making sure those networks are inclusive by investing in digital equity.
- That work includes surveying communities to better understand the barriers underrepresented groups face to Internet adoption, making draft plans available for public input, creating a challenge process for communities that feel they’ve been improperly excluded, and maintaining auditable records of engagement with local communities and key stakeholders.
- States are also using funding to develop digital equity plans to ensure that people can take advantage of the networks they are building.
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