As an unprecedented amount of funding has become available for broadband deployments, several states have taken steps to direct funding toward low-income areas and public housing. A new post from the Pew Charitable Trusts Broadband Access Initiative explores various approaches that states have taken.
California, for instance, created a public housing account within the California Advanced Services Fund. The fund provides grants for broadband infrastructure adoption and planning. The account was aimed at projects designed to provide free broadband service to low income communities.
In Rhode Island, $700,000 was awarded through the state’s housing department across two rounds in 2021 and 2022 to provide grants “that support community room connectivity, in-unit access, devices for residents, and support to help residents enroll in low-cost offers,” Pew noted.
Pandemic relief funds provided benefits as well. For instance, Virginia’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided the state’s Office of Broadband with funding for five affordability projects aimed at connecting low-income households.
Public Housing Broadband
Some states tapped into the Capital Projects Fund, which is a $10 billion fund created by the American Rescue Plan Act. Nevada, for instance, used $55 million CPF funding to provide wireless and wired solutions to bring high speed service to low-income multi-dwelling units. The expectation is that 40,000 units will get service by 2026.
Connecticut is providing $40.8 million in CPF funding to improve broadband access in low-income and multifamily housing.
Finally, Massachusetts is using some of its State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund money to support a Digital Equity partnership program that includes a Wi-Fi access initiative in subsidized housing and low-income neighborhoods.
Pew suggests that understanding how these approaches work can drive success.
“The efforts underway in these states will be critical to better understanding different models for connecting low-income multifamily properties, as well as how factors such as property age and type, resident demographics, and geography inform solutions,” wrote Kelly Wert, a Broadband Access Initiative Associate and author of the post.
“Analyzing how well these initiatives succeed can help inform states and communities in their efforts to bridge the digital divide, including as they consider how best to allocate funds from the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program and Digital Equity Act available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enacted in late 2021.”