At least 98 counties and cities are planning or considering broadband projects to be funded, at least in part, through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), according to a new database from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR).
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic highlighted both the importance of broadband and the lack of sufficient broadband speeds in many rural areas, driving legislators to allocate $350 billion in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery funding that will go to state and local governments. The funding can be used for broadband and other projects.
The portion of that funding going to counties is $65.1 billion and the portion going to “metropolitan cities” is $45.6 billion. The U.S. Treasury Department used a complex formula to create a list of funding available by county.
Fifty percent of total funding was scheduled to be released to counties in May, and interim rules call for rural areas to be eligible for broadband funding if they lack “reliable” broadband service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Any entity receiving funding for broadband deployments is expected to deploy service at speeds of at least 100 Mbps symmetrical unless “impracticable due to topography, geography or financial cost.”
As an introduction to the ILSR database notes, “many local leaders have begun to propose projects and seek input from citizens about how [funding] should be used.” ILSR adds, though, that the road from recognizing the need for faster broadband and “implementing thoughtful policies” isn’t “an equally smooth one for all.”
According to ILSR, “that’s where this page comes in.”
The database lists projects and potential projects on a state-by-state basis and indicates whether a project is already planned or still under consideration. Each listing includes a link to ILSR’s source for the information, typically a local news media outlet.
A total of 43 states have at least one broadband project planned or under consideration through the ARPA county or city programs, so it’s easier to list the states that don’t have a listing as of now. Those states are: Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
The ILSR web page offers an email address to which stakeholders are invited to send corrections, additions or updates.