Money

Rhode Island’s economic development arm is seeking proposals for the first phase of broadband service improvements, which are part of the Rhode Island Commerce’s ConnectRI program supporting unserved and underserved areas throughout the state.

The first RFP is for a $25 million project to improve broadband service for an estimated 6,700 homes and businesses in Jamestown (1,900), Newport (2,900), and Westerly (1,900). The RFP will require buildouts of end-to-end fiber networks that can deliver 100/100Mbps speeds and will prioritize affordability, with 100/100Mbps service built with CPF funds of $53.09 per month or less. Two additional RFPs will be released in the coming months.

The state’s broadband expansion plans come after nearly two years of discussions and meetings, including the development of a Rhode Island Broadband & Digital Equity Strategic Plan, a five-year action plan, and the creation of the Rhode Island broadband map.

The three cities selected for the first RFP were chosen based on a formula that considered the total number of locations served against amount of funding available, Rhode Island’s strategic priorities, and the Treasury Department’s CPF priorities. Areas with higher percentages of households that report not having internet in the home and areas with lower median incomes were additionally weighted.

Subsequent improvements will leverage the state’s $108.7 million BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) funding allocation from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“Broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a 21st century necessity that will keep Rhode Island competitive,” Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee said in a prepared statement. “This investment is the first of several across the state that will connect the unserved and underserved to more reliable and affordable broadband.”

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