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U.S. Treasury Hands Out $500 Million in State Broadband Grants

A stack of money
(Image credit: ATU Images/Getty Images)

Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia are the first four states to receive broadband money from the U.S. Treasury under a $10 billion pandemic-related Capital Projects Fund meant to address challenges in deploying high-quality broadband service, particularly to rural and tribal areas.

The Capital Projects Fund was created by the American Rescue Plan. The more than $500 million of funds will go toward increasing access to “affordable, reliable high-speed internet” for more than 200,000 homes and businesses, the Treasury Department said.

The state plans must deliver service that meets or exceeds speeds of 100 Megabits per second. Internet-service providers delivering on those plans must also participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a discount of up to $30 per month.

States can come up with their own approaches to furthering the Biden administration’s goal of universal broadband access.

For example, Virginia is getting $218.9 million for its Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a last-mile expansion grant program that focuses on whether that broadband is affordable for the residents in the program area.

Moving a bit further south, Louisiana will get $176.7 million for its creatively titled Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) competitive broadband grant program targeted to areas that currently lack speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream, with a goal of providing speeds of 100 Mbps symmetrical (downstream and upstream). Louisiana will give extra weight to cheaper service.

The administration is distributing about $65 billion in grant programs, mostly to the states, to close the digital divide, including affordability and service quality in its assessment of where broadband is available.

“After years of rhetoric about closing the digital divide, it’s great to finally see real progress in funding the affordable, high-speed broadband networks that so many communities lack,” Joshua Stager, deputy director of broadband and competition policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said. “We applaud the Treasury Department for working diligently over the past year to get to this point and welcome the first four state plans that were approved today.” 

“ACA Connects salutes the U.S. Department of the Treasury for awarding more than $500 million in new broadband infrastructure funding to four states – Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia -- to assist a range of communications providers in advancing the goal of universal and affordable broadband Internet access," said Grant Spellmeyer, president of ACA Connects.■

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.