WASHINGTON, April 14, 2022 — The head of the Commerce Department agency responsible for more than $43 billion in federal broadband infrastructure funding said that the Biden administration wouldn’t be satisfied until every American had access to low-cost and broadband internet at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mpbs upload.
Speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Club event on Wednesday, National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Alan Davidson said that in order to truly eliminate the digital divide, state engagement and leadership was necessary to maximize federal funding.
Money coming down from the from the NTIA through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act must be flexible, including extensive private contributions to projects.
“We expect there will be flexibility,” Davidson said about how much private communications companies and state funding should go toward projects. “The statute gives them that flexibility. It’s not a one-size-fits-all at all,”
The IIJA – which gives the NTIA $42.5 billion to distribute among states – requires network operators to match at least 25 percent of project costs funded by the Commerce agency’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. But states could require more than a 25 percent match, Davidson said.
“There are a lot of folks out there that – if you just give them little bit more support – would be willing to do that next deployment,” Davidson said. A lot of the funding won in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction will go to companies that committed to covering at least 50% of project costs, he noted.
“We’ve been talking about closing the digital divide in this country for over twenty years,” he said, recommending states “reach out” to the NTIA for guidance.
“When this project is done, everyone in America will have access to high-speed, affordable broadband” said Davidson, referring specifically to the 100 Mbps x 20 Mbps definition of high-speed broadband in IIJA.
Davidson also said that “there’s a need for political leadership to be engaging [and] to understand the importance of [the IIJA].
“One of the biggest areas that we’re investing in is in the folks we’re going to be working with in the states,” he said. “The broadband offices in the states are going to be the key front line for a lot of this work.”
The NTIA requested comments on the IIJA, with the due date being February 4. It is planning on requesting additional comments later on for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program.
See the questions for Alan Davidson at the Broadband.Money community.
Join the broadband grants community in welcoming special guest Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark will host Alan for a fireside chat. Broadband.money will also preview its platform for broadband grant application research, development, reporting and compliance. Hear Alan’s vision for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, as well as $1 billion for middle mile funding, $3 billion tribal funding programs, and the interaction of BEAD and the Affordable Connectivity Program. Get his perspective on important matters, such as:
- What does success look like?
- What is the timeline from here?
- Will states view the 25% match requirement as a ceiling, or a floor?
- How should local governments, providers, and infrastructure builders – public and private – prepare while waiting on maps and state plans?
And more. If you have questions for Alan in advance of the event, please post them in the Broadband.Money community. We’ll try our best to get them into the discussion.
Guests for this Broadband Breakfast for Lunch session:
- Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator
- Drew Clark (host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
Alan Davidson is an Internet policy expert with over 20 years of experience as an executive, public interest advocate, technologist, and attorney. He was most recently a Senior Advisor at the Mozilla Foundation, a global nonprofit that promotes openness, innovation, and participation on the Internet. He was previously Mozilla’s Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security, where he led public policy and privacy teams promoting an open Internet and a healthy web. Alan served in the Obama-Biden Administration as the first Director of Digital Economy at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He started Google’s public policy office in Washington, D.C., leading government relations and policy in North and South America for seven years until 2012. Alan has been a long-time leader in the Internet nonprofit community, serving as Director of New America’s Open Technology Institute where he worked to promote equitable broadband access and adoption. As Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Alan was an advocate for civil liberties and human rights online in some of the earliest Internet policy debates. Alan currently resides with his family in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Yale Law School, and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.
Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
This Broadband Breakfast for Lunch event is co-hosted with:
Photo by Commuter Benefits used with permission
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides a number of program that, all told, provide $65 billion for broadband infrastructure investment. A part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed 69-30 last year, the measure has the promise of promoting an “infrastructure decade” for the United States, President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union Address. We are excited that National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Alan Davidson, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, has accepted our invitation to speak about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In this second session of this Broadband Breakfast for Lunch series, Broadband Breakfast and Broadband.Money will explore what the federal government, states and infrastructure builders – public and private – should be doing to prepare for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.