Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
american rescue plan act
Content tagged with "american rescue plan act"Displaying 1 - 10 of 82
The key for states to unlock their portion of the $42.5 billion in federal BEAD funds is the submission and approval of their Five Year Action Plans and Final Proposal. The infrastructure law requires states to first file an action plan, and then prepare more detailed Initial Proposals, allowing residents and stakeholders to submit public comments.
So far, 14 states have filed their Five Year Action Plans with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Treasury Department agency in charge of allocating the funds to each state and U.S. territory. According to the NTIA’s website, Maine, Louisiana, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont have all filed their draft Five Year Action Plans.
The states that are now in the process of completing their Initial Proposals include: Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
Today, we will look at two states (Maine and Louisiana) and follow up with the others as we are getting a clearer picture of how each state intends to put this historic infusion of federal funds to use.
The establishment of a new broadband office in Mississippi heralds a new era in the state’s efforts to bring high quality broadband to all its residents, especially those living in the most rural parts of the state.
On the forefront of that effort is the Delta Electric Power Association, an electric cooperative currently building out fiber infrastructure in the Mississippi Delta region – a mostly rural part of the state with a majority Black population and where about a quarter of residents do not have access to broadband of any kind.
As in other states with sizable rural areas, electric cooperatives are playing a major role in building out high-speed Internet infrastructure.
In Mississippi, Delta Electric, has a service area that covers ten counties in the northwestern part of the state, providing electricity for 4,235 industrial, 3,144 commercial, and 21,174 residential member-owners.
Now, the cooperative has set its sights set on bringing high-speed Internet service to its members, left behind by the big national providers who do not consider the region profitable enough to invest in.
Electric Cooperative Starts With CARE(S)
It started in 2020, when the electric cooperative was awarded a $4.9 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant for a fiber pilot serving Carroll County with gig speed connections.
Public Utility Districts across the state of Washington have become key players in building out high-speed Internet infrastructure for residents and businesses in rural parts of the Evergreen State. One of those PUD’s, the Whatcom County Public Utility District (PUD) is now leading that charge in one of the most difficult-to-reach parts of the state, building an open access dark fiber network that will bring high-speed connectivity to over a thousand homes and businesses in Point Roberts.
Point Roberts is a pen-exclave of Washington State, about 25 miles south of Vancouver. (Pen-exclave: an area that can only be accessed through another country – in this case, Canada). The rural community, known for its peaceful beaches and mountain views, as well as its orca and eagle populations, is just under 5 square miles and home to about 1,200 residents.
Designated to the United States in 1846 as the border between the United States and Canada was drawn along the 49th parallel, Point Roberts has a distinct geographic identity, which presents a unique challenge when it comes to building broadband infrastructure.
Portland activists are renewing their calls to prioritize the construction of a municipally owned broadband network in the Oregon city of 635,000. With an historic infusion of federal subsidies and a looming shakeup of city politics, advocates for community-owned broadband say the time is right to finally revolutionize city telecom infrastructure with an eye on affordability.
“Ten years ago was a perfect time to embrace community broadband and nothing has changed,” Russell Senior, President of Personal Telco, a nonprofit wireless network, and Municipal Broadband PDX, a nonprofit advocating for publicly-owned fiber networks in Multnomah County, Oregon told ILSR.
“ISPs continue to exercise monopoly power and have their boot on the neck of subscribers,” he said. “The most practical and effective way to get out from under that boot, in light of persistent federal complicity, is local public ownership of the infrastructure that gives them that power.”
Portland has historically been at the very center of the debate over monopoly power and competitive broadband access, and city officials have been contemplating a publicly-owned broadband network for more than 20 years. It’s a concept other Oregon cities, like nearby Hillsboro, adopted years earlier.
Superior, Wisconsin officials have given the green light to the first pilot area for Superior’s new city-owned fiber network. Dubbed Connect Superior, the open access fiber network aims to deliver affordable gigabit access to every resident, community anchor institution and business in the city of nearly 27,000.
On July 5, the Superior City Council voted 8-1 to approve deployment in the project’s first pilot area: a swath of around 821 homes and businesses lodged between Tower Avenue, Belknap Street, and North 21st streets. The vote lets the city now begin issuing RFPs for network construction and negotiate with potential network tenants.
In 2020 the city passed a resolution declaring fiber essential infrastructure. In 2021, the city council voted overwhelmingly to move forward on a deployment master plan developed for the city by EntryPoint Networks. The initial $2.26 million cost of the pilot will be paid for with the help of $5 million from the city’s $17 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act funding.
A citywide deployment, should the city pursue it, is expected to cost somewhere around $31 million. The city remains hopeful that much of the cost can be offset by what it hopes will be a 40 percent take rate among local residents and businesses.
Officials in the South Texas town of Harlingen say they’ve put their plan to deploy a municipal broadband network on hold after projected costs ballooned well beyond original estimates.
Originally, Harlingen officials had hoped to construct a $4 million fiber network to shore up broadband access to the city’s unserved and under-served populace, using a portion of the city’s $22 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
But a $100,000 study conducted by Houston-based consultants Cobb Fendley and Associates suggested a more realistic price tag would be closer to $10 million, forcing city officials to reconsider their plan.
"We were hoping to get it rolling but we ran into a few hurdles along the way," City Commissioner Ford Kinsley recently told GovTech. "We're looking for some sources other than what we originally thought."
A 2019 census survey found that nearly 35 percent of Harlingen’s households (7,887 of 22,901) lacked any broadband access whatsoever, positioning the city as second worst in the state behind Pharr, Texas, which recently built a municipal fiber network to bring affordable connectivity to its city residents. Harlingen school district officials also say they found that 900 students' homes lacked Internet access as of 2020, hampering city education standards.
The majority of the rest of the city’s residents are served by one or two providers, resulting in spotty access, high prices, and sluggish speeds. As with so many U.S. markets, the Covid home education and telecommuting boom drove home the need for the kind of affordable, uniform broadband access regional monopolies long failed to deliver.
Allegan County, Michigan will soon receive a $30 million state grant to finalize the deployment of a new open access, carrier-neutral fiber network. The end result will bring overdue competition – and affordable multi-gigabit fiber access – to long neglected communities by 2025.
The $30 million award is part of Michigan’s $238 million Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program, made possible by 2021’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the resulting Capital Projects Fund.
123NET was chosen by Allegan County in late 2021 to help spearhead the Allegan County Broadband Project. The public-private partnership will bring access to more than 10,000 Allegan County residents either underserved or completely unserved by regional telecom giants, spread out across 1,000 square miles.
123NET and Allegan County had already committed to contributing $17.5 million for the construction of the network, with the county’s share coming from earlier ARPA awards.
"We are pleased to be selected as a recipient of the Michigan ROBIN Grant Funding. This recognition validates the hard work and dedication that both we and Allegan County have put into this Project,” Dan Irvin, CEO of 123NET said of the award. “We look forward to partnering with additional communities throughout Michigan in a combined effort to make this state the best connected on the planet."
It was a big week for ECFiber as Vermont’s first – and oldest – Communication Union District (CUD) celebrated lighting up the last hub of its 1,500 mile-network in White River Junction.
To mark the occasion of connecting the “golden patch cord” that will extend high-speed Internet service to eight more communities in the Upper Valley region, White River Junction’s VFW Hall was packed this past Tuesday with CUD officials, local and state leaders, enthusiastic residents, and U.S. Sen. Peter Welch. They were there to celebrate what ECFiber officials liken to “the Golden Spike moment tying the first transcontinental railroad together.”
After a 30-piece band played marching tunes, ECFiber Chairman F.X. Flinn marched to the podium to describe the meaning of the moment.
"It’s come to fruition today with a lighting of the White River Junction hub," he said. "This is the last piece of the puzzle for the network we originally envisioned that would bring world-class broadband to every home and business in the 23 member towns that originally voted town meeting day 2008 to create ECFiber."
Sen. Welch, an ECFiber subscriber who also spoke at the event, credited the state’s community broadband approach as the linchpin to solving the state’s digital divide:
“If we in rural Vermont were going to depend on the big telecommunication companies to wire our homes and get us Internet, we’d be waiting until our grandchildren had grandchildren. It wasn’t going to happen.”
Eight More Towns Join CUD
Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) has begun construction on an ambitious new fiber deployment that will soon bring affordable, multi-gigabit fiber access to all of the cooperative’s existing electrical customers in rural Northern Florida.
Cooperative officials tell ILSR its three-phase build out is well underway, with a beta anticipated this summer and the first commercial customers connected by August. SVEC Communications Director Jon Little says the cooperative’s goal remains to deliver affordable fiber to all 20,000 of the cooperative's current electric customers by the end of 2026.
“We’ve broken our territory into three phases based partly on population or possible customers,” Little said.
The cooperative’s recently created subsidiary, Rapid Fiber Internet, will interface directly with subscribers, while Conexon manages deployment of more than 4,100 miles of fiber. Electrical users won’t see price hikes; the projected $93 million deployment cost will be funded by a combination of grants and loans paid back exclusively through user subscriptions.
Little told ISLR that make ready (preparing utility poles for fiber attachments) prep and engineering for phase one are complete, and make ready construction for phase one is roughly 40 percent complete. He added that primary fiber construction for phase one is roughly twenty percent complete.
“We’re hoping that we will have a group of beta customers starting next month,” Little said. “We want to go about a month to get their feedback, and so we’re still hoping sometime in August to offer hookups to our members on that first feeder.”
Concerns are mounting that over $2.8 billion in potential broadband grants doled out by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) could be wasted, further eroding the already well-criticized program’s disjointed effort to expand broadband access across rural America.
In 2019, the Ajit Pai FCC created the $20.4 billion RDOF with an eye on shoring up affordable broadband access in traditionally unserved rural U.S. markets. The money was to be doled out via reverse auction in several phases, with winners often declared based on having the maximum impact for minimum projected cost.
During phase one of the program, the FCC stated that 180 bidders won $9.2 billion over 10 years to provide broadband to 5.2 million locations across 49 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. But of the $9.2 billion in winners, over $2.8 billion has gone into default, meaning the bidder couldn’t actually deliver on promised projects.
We've tracked the RDOF awards since the auction concluded, including for the providers that defaulted on their wins.
These issues have not only imperiled RDOF program funding, but have thrown a wrench in the works of numerous additional government efforts to shore up broadband access, from the FCC’s long-criticized quest to accurately map U.S. broadband access, to the implementation of newer grant programs overseen by other agencies.