America’s Stalwart Commitment to Broadband Deployment
In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the need for universal broadband access into focus. As millions of unconnected Americans struggled to acclimate to the new normal without access to critical digital services, the Biden administration and key agencies stepped up to meet the challenge with impressive commitments and unprecedented investments, paving the way for a future that fully realizes a connected and digitally-empowered America. As we near the end of 2022, we celebrate these commitments and look back on the investments that will make 2023 and the years to follow a landmark era for U.S. broadband deployment.
With the passage of historic legislation allocating $65 billion in pursuit of “Internet for All”, U.S. communities are closer than ever to boasting universal access to broadband service through the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Under-connected communities in rural areas and Tribal lands have particular reason to celebrate, as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced an additional $224 million in grants for network deployment on Tribal lands through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, bringing the administration’s total dedication of high-speed Internet to Tribes to $1.5 billion. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in October that the Department will provide an additional $759 million to bring high-speed Internet access to rural communities.
Schools and students can also look forward to enhanced connectivity in 2023, as record-breaking commitments from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now total more than $6.4 billion in program funding to provide more than 15 million students with broadband connections and equipment.
Dedicating funds for broadband infrastructure deployment isn’t the only tool the Biden administration and federal agencies are wielding to connect America. Organizations like the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition are calling on the FCC to allocate more spectrum for public and private use in the pursuit of widespread implementation of 5G technologies. In 2020, the FCC opened the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) 2.5GHz band for auction exclusively to Tribally-owned and operated networks in order to close the digital divide on rural Tribal lands in a landmark program known as the Rural Tribal Priority Window. The program’s efforts resulted in 270 2.5GHz licenses granted to Tribes or Tribally-owned entities for the establishment of localized high-speed Internet services. However, in order to ensure both U.S. competitiveness on the global tech stage and full, fair, and open competition within U.S. ISP markets, further action is needed by Congress and the FCC to allocate spectrum bands for commercial and municipal broadband use.
Nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the need for widespread access to affordable, reliable digital services, universal broadband access remains a top priority for American communities. Staunch commitments and unparalleled investments from the Biden administration and federal agencies remind us that universal Internet access is no longer a pipe dream, but a reality. In 2023, CCIA looks forward to a more connected America for the empowerment of our economy, the wellbeing of our communities, and the solidification of the U.S. as a global hub for technology and innovation.