Broadband Access Initiatives

Internet for All - Closing the Digital Divide
Photo courtesy of Brooks Manufacturing

Expanding broadband access to more rural areas is supported by a number of govenment and utility initiatives. The areas in need are in, but not limited to, less populated counties, in timber and farmlands, along lakes and rivers, and in the mountains. Most of us who have lived or visited these areas have experienced the lack of internet and cell coverage. As broadband initiatives expand, we will see more utility poles going up to bring broadband access to homes with limited or no coverage. 

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There are numerous funding initiatives available through government, utilities and other organizations. Below are a sample of organizations supporting these initaitives, including details on how utilities can get funding .

  1. Internet for All 
    1. The Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” Initiative is bringing affordable, reliable high-speed internet to everyone in America.
    2. "The Biden administration has launched the Internet for All initiative, which may well be the boldest digital inclusion project in history, and aspires to close an essential gap in the world’s most valuable and second most evolved digital economy. The funding for the initiative draws from an unprecedented $65 billion sum from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earmarked for the purpose of closing the digital divide. The stated goal is to ensure that “every American will have access to technologies that allow them to attend class, start a small business, visit with their doctor, and participate in the modern economy” by building broadband internet infrastructure, improving affordability, and teaching digital skills." -- By Michelle Harati, Senior Policy Officer
  2. USDA is Investing in Rural Broadband
    1.  "The USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure for decades." The USDA RUS programs have been supported by annual loans and grants in the hundreds of millions of dollars to bring modern broadband e-Connectivity to rural communities. 
    2. The ReConnect Program policies and procedures were codified in the April 2021 ReConnect Regulation." This new funding option was created by the United States Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which authorized $600 million for an ambitious initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In FY 2019, Congress added $500 million to the Program, and in FY 2020 and FY 2021, Congress appropriated an additional $555 million and $635 million, respectively.
    3. Reconnect loan and grant program
    4. For information on funding categories
    5. Service area eligibility requirements
  3. From the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
    1. "Significant progress has been made to expand broadband access, especially with the historic investment in rural broadband included in the bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, which allocated $65 billion to close the digital divide. Electric co-ops are working with policymakers to improve broadband data collection, which is needed to reveal gaps in coverage and target federal resources to achieve universal broadband access in unserved and underserved communities."
    2. In the NRECA's episode  "Along Those Lines" dated January 23, 2023, name with co, explains how what it takes for co-ops to enter the broadband space. And many are able to do it with partnerships with IOUs and vendors.
  4. Local Initiatives Support Corporation
    1. Connecting Communities through Affordable Broadband
    2. LISC StoriesCommunity Wise Blog
    3. Since the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, many federal agencies, states, localities, nonprofits, and other stakeholders have been working to ensure these new resources are implemented equitably across the country. With $65 billion dedicated to closing the digital divide, the Infrastructure Law represents the most significant federal investment in internet connectivity, and is a tremendous opportunity to advance digital inclusion work. At LISC, we are working alongside other community organizations to ensure that this expanded funding is directed to disinvested communities and helps close racial gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity.