Rural Broadband Realities
The 759 million dollar, 27-state plan, announced just days ahead of the midterms, will be funded by three pots of money …
VILSACK … “One, there is a regular ReConnect Program that USDA receives through Rural Development on an annual basis. There were resources provided early in the pandemic for assistance and help, and then, obviously, the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”
And of the $759 million, just 62% will come from the infrastructure bill.
But most of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act’s $65 billion broadband dollars won’t go to the USDA effort …
VILSACK … “The FCC, the Department of Commerce, have a substantial amount of money provided in the future as we map out and have a better understanding of precisely where the gaps are. The other 63 billion dollars that were part of the infrastructure law will be allocated to fill those gaps.”
But tedious FCC mapping of gaps is taking years, delaying the deployment of fiber in underserved areas, while interagency coordination and duplication have also complicated the push to close the rural-urban ‘digital divide.’