The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it is requesting public comment on policy and program considerations associated with new broadband grant programs authorized and funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL): the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program and the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program.
NTIA said that the BIL provides $65 billion to expand broadband in U.S. communities. Of those funds, $48.2 billion is allocated to NTIA to deploy broadband to unserved and underserved locations, create more low-cost broadband service options, deploy middle-mile infrastructure and address the digital equity and inclusion needs in communities. NTIA said it is interested in input on the program design, policy issues and implementation considerations for these new programs in order to meet the programmatic goals articulated in the statute and by the Biden administration.
“President Biden delivered a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect all Americans to high-speed broadband and close the digital divide for good,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “Universal, affordable broadband is essential to our economy, our small businesses, educating our students and keeping Americans healthy. As we begin to set up these essential programs, we are asking for your input. We need to hear directly from the communities who will benefit from these programs so we can fund solutions that appropriately address their needs and meet the challenge before us.”
The agency said development of the programs will also be influenced by NTIA’s experience in promoting broadband infrastructure development and digital inclusion efforts through its BroadbandUSA initiative as well as previous and current grant programs. NTIA said it intends to release an additional request for comment to address the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program.
“This unprecedented investment in closing the digital divide requires input from a wide range of voices to assist NTIA’s efforts in the design and implementation of the new grant programs,” said Evelyn Remaley, acting assistant secretary for communications and information. “This feedback is critical to maximizing the impact of these programs, bringing affordable broadband to all Americans, promoting adoption, and closing long-standing gaps in digital equity and inclusion.”
NTIA said it encourages commenters to address the questions enumerated in the Request for Comment. Written comments may be submitted to regulations.gov by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 4. All comments submitted will be posted publicly on regulations.gov.
In addition to requesting written comment, NTIA said it would continue a series of public virtual listening sessions in connection with the BIL programs in January and February. Registration information for these sessions is on the BroadbandUSA website.