Biden To Embed Broadband Fund Help Desk in Rural Areas

The White House
(Image credit: Matt H. Wade/Wikimedia Commons)

In a move likely to draw fire from Big Government-bashing Republicans, the Biden administration has established a network of government officials — the Rural Partners Network (RPN) — it plans to embed in rural communities to make sure they can access infrastructure spending in the American Rescue Plan, including the billions for rural broadband going to states and principally overseen by the Department of Commerce.

The administration has said it wants to prioritize municipal broadband buildouts and will now place federal staffers in more than two dozen rural communities to “help local leaders navigate and access the federal resources they need to build a strong and vibrant economy,” including through the “once-in-a-generation investment in affordable high-speed internet,” as well as money for water, electricity, roads and bridges.

The Commerce Department will be one of the participating agencies in the RPN, which will be principally funded by the Department of Agriculture.

Also: NTIA Says Broadband Grants Aren't One Size Fits All

“Just making resources available is not enough — the federal government must better serve rural communities, so that they can take full advantage of these unprecedented opportunities,” the White House said Wednesday (April 20), adding that RPN will also “also identify challenges preventing rural communities from accessing federal support.”

Alan Davidson, head of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), has already said his agency is taking a customer-service approach to overseeing the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) initiative going to the states for broadband buildouts. That includes an NTIA point person to help apply for the money. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.