The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) makes funding available to individual states that can be used for a variety of purposes, including broadband, at each state’s discretion. A new report from the Pew Charitable Trust highlights several states that are using ARPA funding for broadband.
Some programs target broadband deployment, some target low-income households and some – known as line extension programs – involve both broadband deployment and affordability.
As Anna Read, senior officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ broadband access initiative, explained in an interview with Telecompetitor, line extension programs are designed to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to moderate and low-income households that are long distances from service provider network facilities. Examples might include a home with an unusually long driveway or a cluster of homes located outside a provider’s primary service area.
Service providers may decline to bring service to locations such as these unless the customer pays a portion of the extra deployment costs.
ARPA-funded line extension programs, such as those in California, Virginia and Connecticut, cover some of the costs of extending connectivity to locations such as these for households with incomes below a certain level. Typically, households apply for funding, which they can use to purchase service installation from the provider of their choice, Read explained.
ARPA Broadband Funding
ARPA funding that can be used for broadband can come from either one of two programs. The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund allocates $195 billion to individual states, as well as an additional $155 billion for counties, cities and other units of government, who also can use the funding for broadband. The Capital Project Fund has a $10 billion budget, most of which goes to individual states.
One of the most surprising findings in the Pew Charitable Trust research about state ARPA broadband programs is “the variation in the amount of funding” from one state to another, noted Read. Some states with active broadband programs allocated relatively small amounts of their ARPA funding to broadband, while “others made a very significant funding commitment,” she said.
Other findings from the Pew Charitable Trust report:
- As of November, legislatures in nearly half of states had appropriated ARPA money for broadband infrastructure grants.
- Examples of states that are using the funding to augment existing broadband programs include California, which is allocating $3.75 billion from the ARPA to those programs, and Indiana, which is adding $250 million to its program.
- Colorado, which has an existing broadband grant program, is using $40 million in ARPA money to establish other funding opportunities.
- Hawaii is launching a broadband infrastructure grant program with a $5 million budget.