Biden administration releases $ 45B for nationwide internet

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration is taking steps to release $ 45 billion to ensure that every US resident has access to high-speed internet by roughly 2028, inviting governors and other leaders on Friday to begin the application process.

Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary It is overseeing the distribution and said that universal access to the broadband internet would be an electrification of rural America during the 1930s, a recognition that the internet is a utility needed for US residents to function in today’s economy.

“There are more than 30 million Americans who don’t have internet,” Raimondo said. “And in this day and age without high-speed internet, you can’t go to school, can’t go to the doctor, can’t do simple things. Think of how many times a day you Google something or go online. “

The funding is part of the $ 65 billion for broadband in the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package That President Joe Biden signed into law last November. That bipartisan package is one of the policy achievements that the Democratic president is trying to sell to voters ahead of midterm elections.However, it is unclear how much the message will resonate when much of the country is focused on high inflationcultural differences and political identity.

Former President Donald Trump has dismissed the infrastructure spending as “fake” even though the broadband spending was one of his own priorities. His Agriculture Department Said in 2020 that it had invested $ 744 million on rural internet connectivity, a sum that was meaningful yet insufficient.

Raimondo is traveling to Durham, North Carolina. She’ll announce that governors can send their letters to the broadband money, which comes from totaling $ 45 billion in programs. Each state would then get $ 5 million to help residents consult and write down its plan.

The Commerce Department recognizes that internet needs vary by state. The money could be used to lay fiber optic cable, build out Wi-Fi hotspots or even reduce monthly charges in places where price is the main challenge. After the administration’s announcement Monday it would provide a $ 30 monthly subsidy To lower-income households, Raimondo noted that states could use the extra money from these programs to make the service free to some users.

The allocations will also be influenced by the Federal Communications Commission releasing new maps that detail where people lack internet service or are underserved. Governors and other leaders would then have six months to use this data to shape their final applications. States and eligible areas are guaranteed a minimum of $ 100 million, though the average payment would be closer to $ 800 million, according to rough estimates from the Commerce Department.

The goal is to have a five-year timeline to provide full Internet access, while providing affordable Internet access and promoting competition among providers. The federal government does not define what qualifies as affordable, since that could be different around the country based on cost of living.

The commerce secretary said she saw the impact that universal internet availability could have on people in her travels.

She said she spoke to a widower in rural South Carolina whose late wife could only see a doctor regularly through telehealth, but they lacked a high-speed connection. Raimondo spoke to a college student in Atlanta who had a full-time job to drive back to campus for her homework, leaving the student so exhausted that she fell asleep at the wheel and got into two auto crashes.

“You are close to the digital divide and the opportunity divide,” said Raimondo, “and we are actually fulfilling the American promise of giving everyone a shot at doing a good job, an education and health care.”

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