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States Get Serious About Broadband Funding

One of the consequences of the pandemic is that states are getting a lot more serious about funding broadband solutions, as evidenced by recently announced proposals to increase state funding for broadband in 2021. I’ve seen proposals from states of more than $2 billion in new funding. These are newly proposed funding amounts that don’t include money already allocated for existing state broadband grant programs.

Few of these proposals are a done deal – most have been suggested by governors or legislators and still must go through the legislative process. But even at the proposal level, this is a far greater amount of state broadband funding than anything we’ve seen in the past and reflects the serious nature of the rural broadband divide. Politicians at all levels are being assailed by people who have struggled through the pandemic due to a lack of broadband. Every governor recognizes the huge economic downside from a failed education system or from businesses crippled when employees can’t work from home. I see these state proposals as a cry for help to solve broadband gaps.

Here is the list I’ve assembled. I’m sure there are other states I’ve missed or states that have not yet announced plans for new 2021 broadband funding. If anybody knows of other proposals, please leave in the comments to this blog.

  • Iowa – $450 million over 3 years
  • Ohio – $250 million
  • Tennessee – $200 million
  • Wisconsin – $200 million
  • West Virginia – $150 million
  • Oregon – $118 million
  • Indiana – $100 million
  • South Dakota – $100 million over 5 years
  • Kentucky – $50 million
  • Minnesota – $50 million
  • Utah – $50 million
  • Washington – $45 million
  • Arizona – $43.1 million
  • Nebraska – $40 million
  • Idaho – $35 million
  • Arkansas – $30 million
  • North Carolina – $30 million
  • South Carolina – $30 million
  • Georgia – $20 million
  • Vermont – $20 million
  • Virginia – 15 million
  • New Mexico – $10 million
  • Missouri – $5 million
  • Maine – $1.8 million

One of the best things about this list is that money is being allocated to broadband in both red and blue states. Broadband should not be a partisan issue, although there are only a few state legislatures where it is. In most states, practically every rural politician is desperate to solve the rural digital divide, and broadband funding bills get bipartisan support.

This funding augments any federal grants. That includes the $9.2 billion that was recently announced at the end of the RDOF grants, $1 billion recently allocated for Tribal areas, and $300 million provided by the NTIA for grants.

While $2 billion might sound like a huge amount of money, it is just a start to permanently solve the rural broadband gap. This article from the Alabama Daily News describes a statewide study done by CTC Technology and Energy that estimates that it will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion to build fiber to all underserved areas of Alabama. I’ve also seen estimates nationwide that vary between $60 billion and $100 billion.

States are clearly saying that they are not going to sit around and wait for federal funding to help solve broadband gaps. Hopefully, most of these proposals make it through the legislative process – and perhaps when states see where they fall on the list above, some of them will step up the amount of funding even more.

2 replies on “States Get Serious About Broadband Funding”

VA’s $15 million is just Cares Act funding. The House and Senate released their budgets on Feb 10 and both chambers fully funded the FY22 VATI round at the Governor’s request of $50 million. VA is pulling in NC ISPs.

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