The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said last week that they have agreed on how they will share information on issues related to distribution of funds for broadband deployment.
The information sharing is mandated by the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, which is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
NTIA, FCC, USDA Broadband
The agreement stipulates that each participating agency will share information about existing or planned projects that receive funds from the FCC’s high-cost programs that support rural broadband, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs and programs administered or coordinated by NTIA.
The agreement also obligates partners to share information on current or planned projects. The entities upon request will identify which entity is providing broadband in a specified geographic area, the levels of broadband in these areas — including speeds and technology deployed – and whether the entity has or will receive funds from the programs in that area.
Each party also agreed to consider basing the distribution of program funds on standardized broadband coverage data.
“Access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband is critical to the economic well-being of communities and small businesses across America. Today’s announcement lays important groundwork for collaboration between agencies to ensure the federal government’s efforts to expand broadband access are as effective and efficient as possible, reaching every corner of the country,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a press release about the NTIA, FCC and USDA broadband efforts.
The agencies may have a lot more to talk about than in the past. The bipartisan agreement on infrastructure announced last week includes a $65 billion boost to broadband. That funding — $35 billion less than what President Biden initially requested – would be spread over five to eight years.