Expand rural broadband across state government
“We also, of course, provide infrastructure grants,” says Schaffer. In the current funding round, applicants use the state’s broadband intelligence platform to identify the number of unserved or underserved locations. “This means that all apps will use the same data, and we can judge apps on an apples-to-apples comparison.”
Meanwhile, across the country, the Utah Broadband Center “works as a liaison to rural communities by connecting them to rural broadband Internet service providers,” says director Rebecca Dilg.
TO EXPLORE: How are some cities closing the last mile broadband gap?
“Often, just having the conversation opens up opportunities for collaboration or awareness of needs,” she says. “Many rural broadband providers participate in submitting their coverage areas and information for our broadband availability map. From the map, we can identify areas of need. We are excited to launch our own speed test campaign on speedtest.utah.gov to provide an additional layer of broadband data and verification to our cards.
The Utah Broadband Center launched the first state grant program for last mile connectivity in 2021, with $10 million in priority for unserved rural households and businesses, she says.
In Maryland, “we have developed strong partnerships with our counties and ISPs and developed two funding programs to meet the needs of unserved rural areas of the state,” says Kenrick Gordon, director of the Office of Statewide Broadband. .
The state’s Neighborhood Connect Broadband Funding Program provides funds to extend existing nearby broadband networks into pockets of unserved homes, while the Connect Maryland Network Infrastructure Grant Program provides funds to build networks entirely new to serve larger unserved areas.
Montana recently launched its Connect MT program. “This release included the state’s interactive coverage map, which presents address-level data on statewide broadband availability and outlines areas where the FCC and U.S. Department of Agriculture have granted funds, to avoid overbuilding,” said Misty Ann Giles, director of Montana. Administration Department. “We also opened the portal to begin accepting applications for a total of $266 million to expand statewide broadband access to our most underserved and unserved communities.”
DIVE DEEPER: How did North Carolina plan its broadband expansion?
How will the Infrastructure Act expand rural broadband?
Federal funding promises to reshape how states approach rural broadband. The American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act opportunities “have provided unprecedented funding to support broadband deployment, and most of that money will flow through the states,” Read said.
In Utah, the influx of funding will support “last mile connection to unserved rural areas as well as remaining unserved urban areas,” Dilg said.
It will help fund continued expansion of existing broadband networks by the Department of Transportation. It will also allow the Utah Education and Telehealth Network to expand its work with broadband Internet service providers to connect anchor institutions across the state, such as schools, hospitals, health facilities and libraries.
“Providers can then also leverage this middle mile and extend it to rural households in the community,” says Dilg.
In Maryland, the infrastructure bill “will provide funding for Maryland to continue its efforts to ensure that every home has access to broadband,” Gordon said.
Much of this activity is already underway. “States have already begun allocating ARPA funds with a focus on infrastructure deployment and planning for the use of broadband funds available through the IIJA,” Read said.