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Biden to announce state breakdown of 2021 law’s broadband funding

Push comes as House GOP goes after past spending Democrats OK'd

A 2021 law allocated more $65 billion to improve internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas.
A 2021 law allocated more $65 billion to improve internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas. (CQ Roll Call)

The Biden administration will announce Monday how much money each state will receive from a $42.5 billion fund established by 2021 legislation to expand high-speed internet access, most of it over the next two years.

The money is meant to deliver internet access to remote and rural areas. President Joe Biden’s announcement of the breakdown of the largest single chunk of internet funding provided by the 2021 law comes as the House Republican majority is seeking to use fiscal 2024 spending bills to try to claw back unspent money appropriated when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress.

Administration officials on Friday emphasized the benefits of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, part of $65 billion provided for internet access by the 2021 law, particularly for remote and rural areas. 

The money is “finally going to close the digital divide,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said in a call with reporters Friday.

“The internet is down a lot. Sometimes, there’s not even any access,” Zients said. “And we all know from our day-to-day lives how internet and internet access is not a ‘nice to have’ at this point, but it’s a ‘need to have.’” 

Each state as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive a minimum of $100 million, according to a senior administration official also on the call, and four territories will get at least $25 million. Ten percent of the $42.5 billion will be set aside for a “high cost allocations,” an official said, referring to remote or topographically challenging areas where the cost of broadband access is above the average.

The rest of the funding will be doled out proportionally based on the number of unserved communities in a state, based on a Federal Communications Commission map released in May. That map shows about 8.5 million unserved broadband serviceable locations across the U.S. That leaves about 7 percent of the U.S. unserved, according to officials who can’t be named under the terms of the White House call.

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo will be publicizing the effort Monday.

Zients addressed Republicans’ criticism of the spending, saying they are trying to cut critical funding “across the board” that would “just make middle class lives easier.”

“Congressional Republicans are calling to overturn historic legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act, that is reducing costs, fighting climate change and creating good paying manufacturing jobs,” he said. “We have a historic opportunity here to make a real difference in people’s lives and making sure that we deliver on that potential is what we’re about every day.”

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees the internet funding, will use the FCC map to allocate funding.  

One senior official said states will have until December to submit initial proposals to NTIA. The agency will approve and allocate 20 percent by spring of 2024. Final plans are due in spring of 2025, and NTIA will provide 80 percent of the funds by summer 2025.

The BEAD program is part of an administration goal to connect all Americans to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet by 2030. Officials added that they are confident they will meet the goal and further touted the funding for advancing a broader administration initiative to build up the middle class.

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