A major chunk, $42.45 billion, will be overseen by the Commerce Department and its telecom division. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is responsible for making grants to states. President Joe Biden recently nominated Alan Davidson to head the NTIA.
Another significant slice, $14.2 billion, will go to the Federal Communications Commission to establish an Affordable Connectivity Program, an extension and revision of the Emergency Broadband Benefit that provides $30 monthly broadband subsidies for eligible households.
The rest of the package: $2.75 billion for a Digital Equity Program to ensure that “individuals and communities have the information technology capacity that is needed for full participation in the society and economy of the United States”; $2 billion for RUS ReConnect; $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Program; $1 billion for a new middle-mile program overseen by NTIA; and $600 million for Private Activity Bonds for broadband deployments. The infrastructure bill also highlights funding for WiFi networks in apartment buildings.
The breadth and scope of the infrastructure goodies drew consistently high praise from wireless and telecom experts like USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. “It recognizes the private model of broadband deployment in the United States, with targeted public support in unserved or hard-to-reach communities, is the key to achieving 100% connectivity,” Spalter said in a statement.
“This ‘open toolbox’ approach will help consumers by driving innovation and keeping internet plans affordable and accessible to all,” the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, which lobbied for a “tech-neutral” approach to the bill rather than one that favored fiber, said in a statement.