The case of access to rural broadband internet access has become necessary for a few important reasons.  

Healthcare, education and small business can immediately utilize the vast amount of information and communication that broadband provides. Construction technology has also advanced so rapidly that project installation costs will be reduced. Increased internet speed and distance coverage will also expedite the return on investment (ROI) of these projects. 

With new legislation passed in 2021, the federal government has allocated funding for states to work with local electrical co-ops and installers to install much needed broadband access to rural areas of our country. This is designed to instantly support healthcare, small businesses and educational institutions in these areas. 

Opening The Path to Rural High-Speed Broadband 

When the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was enacted into law in November 2021, it allocated $1.2 trillion in funding to improve roads, railways, water delivery systems, broadband access, cybersecurity, and even invest in electric vehicles. This public infrastructure funding is the largest since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System nearly 70 years ago. 

Tucked into the massive spending bill was $65 billion for rural broadband expansion to bring high-speed internet to all Americans. Although most of the nation has fixed broadband access, mobile broadband is spottier, and some areas have no access. Recent data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identified about 8.3 million new locations lacking access to high-speed internet, up about 330,000 from November 2022. 

State Action Plans and Grant Programs 

Although every state and territory will receive money, all fund recipients will need to have an improved construction plan in place. 

Most states have set up offices, agencies, and task forces to help them develop five-year broadband infrastructure plans. Once the plans are in place and approved, it falls on utilities and rural electric membership co-ops to be the front-line boots on the ground. 

Electric membership co-ops serve small communities and rural areas as part of the larger National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The organization’s 200 electric cooperatives have been tasked with helping develop infrastructure plans and eventually installing broadband services within their communities. 

Rural Broadband Funding and You 

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, high-speed broadband access is no longer a luxury. Rural communities are on the front line of this digital divide and disproportionately excluded from high-speed internet. This makes it much harder for these areas to access critical information and communication to make healthcare, education and small business decisions. 

With the IIJA in place, billions of dollars will go into rural areas, giving them the tools they need to be successful, competitive, and connected.  

But how is the $65B broken down, and what projects are funded? 

Most of the money ($42.45 billion) is allocated to the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, helping states and territories install and upgrade broadband networks. This is how the funding is allocated: 

Each state in the U.S. will receive at least $100 million to perform rural broadband upgrades. Territories will receive at least $25 million. 

Texas received the most funding, $3 billion, while California received $1.8 billion. Nearly 20 other states, including North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, received $1B or more.  

To see how much your state received in BEAD money, click here for the complete list

According to the legislation, remaining funds can be distributed to adoption and access projects once broadband has been deployed. 

Although BEAD is the focal point, several other programs were introduced to help expand Wi-Fi access across states and localities, including: 

  • $1B for middle-mile projects between data centers and endpoints  
  • $1.5B for digital equity programs  
  • $20B for projects supported by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) 

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a federal government program for rural communities, opening the door for low-cost broadband. The program has already helped about 17 million households get internet service by offering a $30 monthly discount, or $75 for those living on tribal lands. 

When Are BEAD Funds Available? 

The BEAD program is a huge undertaking but is moving quickly. Funds have already been distributed to the states and territories to get their broadband initiatives underway as soon as possible. 

States can begin applying for funding from their respective states starting July 1. The government has several goals, including connecting everyone to broadband internet by 2030. As funds move from the federal to the state level, states have six months to get their initial proposals in. They can also request at least 20% of their funds to pay for their projects. 

Once the plans have been approved, states can allocate money to co-ops and contractors for last-mile projects to fully implement their internet initiatives. 

Better Broadband is Here 

As co-ops work to bring high-speed internet to every American, they need the right partners in their corner every step of the way. 

Kris-Tech’s team of experts understands the newly implemented legislation, helping cooperatives, small electrical utility providers, and partner contractors get jobs done. We have nearly 40 years of experience building and maintaining relationships and can immediately respond to requests as they develop. 

Every fiber optic installation requires tracer wire to be used. Our team can ship it out immediately from one of our three stocking facilities across the U.S. With this kind of support, we can help every project move smoothly and efficiently with fewer delays and better long-term safety. 

The world is becoming increasingly digital, allowing more people to connect, whether across town or across the country. It’s up to us to help every American thrive, no matter where they choose to call home.

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