President Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, authorizing $1.2 trillion of funding for infrastructure programs that include broadband, transportation, and the utility grid.
$42.45 Billion for Broadband Infrastructure. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will oversee the majority of broadband-related funding through administration of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, which will provide $42.45 billion in grants to states to support broadband expansion, prioritizing expansion efforts in rural areas and states that consistently rank below most other states with respect to broadband access and deployment. NTIA has until May 14, 2022 to establish the program and has stated that there will be a public comment period in the lead-up to issuance of a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the grant program. NTIA is encouraging stakeholder engagement in the process.
States will be required to distribute funds for deployment of broadband networks in their state in a manner that prioritizes, in order, unserved areas (that is, areas that lack access to broadband service with at least 25/3 Mbps and sufficient latency); underserved areas (that is, areas that lack access to service broadband service with at least 100/20 Mbps and sufficient latency); and, finally, (3) funding to connect eligible community anchor institutions. States will also be required to prioritize projects based on: (a) deployment of a broadband network to persistent-poverty counties or high-poverty areas; (b) the speeds of the proposed broadband service; (c) the expediency of the project; and (d) a demonstrated record of and plans to comply with Federal labor and employment law. Subgrantees are broadly defined to include any entity that receives grant funds from a state and can provide the required services and commitments of a subgrant. In most cases, subgrantees will be required to provide a 25% match.
Broadband networks funded by the grants will be required to:
- Provide broadband service with:
- a minimum of 100/20 Mbps;
- a latency that is sufficiently low to allow reasonably foreseeable, real-time, interactive applications; and
- assurance that network outages do not exceed, on average, 48 hours over any 365-day period
- Offer not less than one low-cost broadband service option for eligible subscribers;
- Be deployed and begin providing service to each customer no later than four years after receipt of the subgrant (subject to extension based on a planned use for grant funds, a showing that construction is underway, or extenuating circumstances requiring an extension)
- To the extent the network involves laying fiber optic cables or conduit underground or along a roadway, include interspersed conduit access points at regular and short intervals.
Funding may also be used for middle-mile projects to deploy broadband infrastructure in or through any area required to reach interconnection points, or otherwise to ensure the technical feasibility and financial sustainability of a project providing broadband to an unserved or underserved location or eligible community anchor institution.
Distribution of the funding will be dependent on the FCC updating its broadband data maps, so applications filed with the states will likely not be due until next year.
$14.2 Billion for Extension of Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The Act authorized $14.2 billion to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which will be renamed the Affordable Connectivity Program, and expanded, effective December 31, 2021. The name change will also bring some changes to the program, including eligibility of participants, a reduction in the benefit from $50 to $30 per month, and removal of the restriction that supported-service offerings be offered at the same rate as they were offered as of December 1, 2020. The FCC has released a Public Notice seeking comment on implementation of the new program in light of these changes. Comments are due December 8, 2021 and Reply Comments are due December 28, 2021.
$7.5 Billion for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. $7.5 billion is promised to build out a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers along highway corridors.
Most of the funding will be made available through grants issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to states under the National Electric Vehicle Formula Program, and will be distributed over a 5-year period. The Act prioritizes the award of grants to build EV chargers in rural areas, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, and communities with low ratios of parking spaces to households or high ratios of multi-unit houses to single-family households. The Act also specifies that public entities receiving the grants may use the funds to contract with private entities for acquisition, construction, installation, maintenance, or operation of the EV charging infrastructure. DOT has until May 14, 2022 to develop minimum standards and requirements related to the EV charging infrastructure deployment.
$65 Billion for the Utility Grid Infrastructure. Funding includes investments to upgrade the national power grid and enhance the resilience of grid reliability against disruptive events.
Grant funding will be available for activities that include undergrounding to convert existing electric facilities – poles, wires, and related equipment – to underground facilities to enhance safety and reliability.