Funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) has given federal and state-level government entities the ability to allocate their budget towards reducing the digital divide and better serving their community. As a result, many state and local governments are planning on using their funds for broadband expansion.
What is broadband, and why does it matter? We’ll answer these questions and share examples of municipalities that have successfully implemented a broadband expansion.
What Is Broadband?
According to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), broadband refers to high-speed internet access. Broadband service provides a higher speed of data transmission than traditional (dial-up) internet access. Unlike traditional access, it does not block phone lines, and you don’t need to reconnect to it each time you use the internet. Therefore, broadband access is always constant. Broadband technologies include cable modems, fiber, wireless, satellite, and more.
Why Is Broadband Access Important?
Broadband is important because it gives people access to the highest quality of internet service and technology that is currently available. This can be useful for both low- and moderate-income families and business organizations.
Broadband can help individuals with important tasks such as searching and applying for jobs, distance learning, telehealth services, and more. Broadband access is also particularly useful for rural healthcare providers that require large amounts of data transmission. Broadband access speeds up digital processes for managing electronic health records and videoconferencing for telehealth that requires broadband capability.
The City of Hopewell Expanded Broadband to Over 3,000 Families
The City of Hopewell is one example of a successful broadband implementation. They were tasked with implementing broadband expansion across five of their local communities within three weeks. With such a short time frame for a lofty goal, they decided to work with TPx to help them quickly deploy secure and reliable municipal broadband access to over 3,000 low- and moderate-income families.
Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act
One way to focus on broadband expansion is to take a cue from the state of Tennessee – they have staff within an agency dedicated to supporting broadband. This helped them achieve significant broadband expansion statewide and obtain additional funding. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development recently reached its goals for broadband access and adoption through the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA). In about two years, they were able to expand broadband access to an additional 4% of their statewide population. As a result, the TBAA established a Broadband Accessibility Grant program that invested an additional $10 million in funding.
If you are interested in broadband expansion, there are a few steps you can take to get the ball rolling.
First, you can talk to other municipalities that have successfully expanded to learn about their experience. You can also learn about how other local and state governments are using their ARP funding.
If you have not fully allocated ARP funds, review the Interim Final Rule (IFR), along with the preamble to the Interim Final Rule, in order to make its own assessment of whether your project meets the eligibility criteria in the IFR. For instance, eligible projects are expected to be designed to deliver, upon project completion, service that reliably meets or exceeds symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps. There are exceptions and additional insights here.
In addition, you can reach out to an MSP with experience in this area for consultation and information on what increasing and improving broadband for your community would entail.