News reporting on the digital divide has increased tenfold since the pandemic started, and in response policymakers at all levels are approving large amounts of taxpayer funded initiatives to help close the divide. We always advise our member companies to develop and maintain good relationships with their local elected officials, but now those relationships are more crucial than ever.
The additional public interest and incentives to expand broadband present opportunities for growth as well as for competition. There have been many private-public partnerships, such as between the City of Bryan and MetroNet, as well as public initiatives into broadband. For instance, the City of Pharr announced the beginning of construction of a municipally provided broadband system to 24,000 residential and business accounts that hopes to be a model for other communities to follow.
At the Federal level, several initiatives are underway that we are monitoring:
- Recently, the FCC approved a $7 billion broadband connectivity fund for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students access online learning. This is in addition to the $50 home Internet discount to low-income households provided under the EBB program.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced this week the availability of $288 million in grant funding for the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Grants will be awarded to partnerships between a state, or political subdivisions of a state, and providers of fixed broadband service.
- The American Rescue Plan was also recently approved, and it will deliver $350 billion for state and local governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs. $5.6 billion is available for county governments in Texas. The funds provide substantial flexibility for each local government to meet local needs. These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in broadband infrastructure.
TTA staff will be meeting with statewide organizations that represent the cities and counties to discuss coordination between their members and ours. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need assistance in interfacing with your state and local leadership.
It is the goal of TTA to build stronger relationships and have open communication between all its members. Your story is real. Your story is important. Your story makes a difference. Our goal is to hear and share your story with folks in Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.TTA Board of Directors