Several states that didn’t previously have broadband grant programs were motivated to create them when the CARES Act made $150 billion available to state, local and tribal governments to use as they saw fit to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Other states also used the funding toward broadband deployments, devices and programs.
Among the states that established grant programs for broadband deployments as a result of the CARES Act were Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The report notes, for example, that New Hampshire directed $50 million in CARES funding to the Connecting New Hampshire – Emergency Broadband Expansion Program. That program will support deployments that “provide families, students and businesses with connections to work, learn and operate during the pandemic,” The Pew Charitable Trusts notes.
Mississippi directed a particularly large amount of its CARES Act funding toward broadband. The Pew report notes that the state made $75 million available for emergency broadband grants. Others who have studied how states used CARES Act funding have noted that the state devoted $275 million overall to broadband, including $65 million that went to rural electric cooperatives toward the cost of rural broadband deployments.
State CARES Act Broadband
Some states used CARES Act funding to augment existing broadband grant programs, the Pew report notes.
For example, Vermont dedicated $17.4 million to a COVID-Response Accelerated Broadband Connectivity Program, which includes initiatives to build fiber-to-the-premises. The program also provides up to $3,000 in financial assistance for what the report refers to as “line extensions, which expand connectivity to unserved streets and neighborhoods.” That cost typically falls to property owners, the report notes.
In Tennessee, the state allocated $62 million in CARES Act funding to the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund to support the deployment of public Wi-Fi access points and new infrastructure deployment, including providing funding to add more service drops to customer locations.
Other states that provided funding for pubic Wi-Fi include Idaho, which allocated $2 million to libraries in the state for that purpose, and Arizona, which allocated $650,000 to its state library to “expand digital network access, purchase internet-accessible devices and provide technical support services to citizens.”
Some other states used funding for broadband-related equipment or provided funding to certain types of entities to cover some of their connectivity costs.
For example, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon and Vermont dedicated funding toward connectivity for healthcare providers to support telehealth initiatives. And 12 states – including Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri and others — directed CARES Act funding toward devices and equipment to support digital learning.
The Pew report about how states used CARES Act funding for broadband came out at nearly the same time that a report from the National Governors Association explored this topic as part of a broader report about state-level broadband policies. That report offered some different examples of how specific states used broadband funding.