Biden lines up $42.5B for US broadband boost

You get funding, you get funding, everybody gets funding

On Monday the Biden administration announced a plan to divide up $42.5 billion for improvements to US broadband networks - and everyone from the largest states to the smallest territory is getting a piece of the pie.

The funding comes via the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program as part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law in late 2021. 

"What this announcement means for people across the country is that if you don't have access to quality, affordable high-speed Internet service now – you will," said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. 

While each state is getting a cut of the $42.5 billion being doled out under the supervision of the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the amounts vary considerably from state to state and territory. It'll be up to state governments to determine how the money will be spent.

Leading the investment pack is Texas, which is being handed $3.3 billion, followed by California ($1.9 billion), Missouri ($1.7 billion) and Michigan ($1.6 billion). Nineteen states were awarded more than $1 billion, and no state is getting less than $107 million. As for the territories, Puerto Rico and Guam will get funding on par with the majority of US states, with Washington, DC, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands all getting funding to some degree. 

BEAD funds must be used "to deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service," the White House said, while remaining funds can be used to pursue access-, adoption- and equity-related uses once broadband deployment goals are met. 

The Biden administration said BEAD funds won't only improve the nation's internet infrastructure, but will also support manufacturing jobs in the US. As an example, the White House cited CommScope and Corning, which both manufacture telecom infrastructure hardware, as stepping up their domestic manufacturing efforts (by $47 million and $500 million, respectively) in response to BEAD funding and plans to improve the US' internet backbone. 


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"Just like Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act brought electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, President Biden and Vice President Harris are delivering on their historic commitment to connect everyone in America to reliable, affordable high-speed internet by the end of the decade," the Biden administration said.

Whether it will work as intended is another thing entirely, of course. 

Take the case in the early 2000s of telecom firms promising gigabit fiber deployments around the country, for which the US government allowed them to consolidate and charge new fees. Those promised deployments for the most part haven't materialized, but fees initially assessed for the purpose haven't gone away. In other words, we've been down this internet infrastructure upgrade road before, and it came to nothing.  

Whether BEAD will be vulnerable to the same failures remains to be seen; States and territories eligible for the funds have 180 days from their date of formal notice (planned for June 30) to submit proposals for how they plan to run their local BEAD grant programs. ®

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