Broadband Funding Frameworks and Updates

Center for Connected Health Policy

July 2021

The report released last month suggests the need for $106 - $179 billion to future-proof networks and get higher broadband speeds to those that currently need them.

Addressing Gaps in Broadband Infrastructure Availability and Service Adoption: A Cost Estimation & Prioritization Framework is an analysis conducted by ACA Connects, an association representing small and rural broadband providers which projects that broadband funding levels should be higher than recent federal funding proposals offer. The report released last month suggests the need for $106 - $179 billion to future-proof networks and get higher broadband speeds to those that currently need them. Although President Biden’s initial proposal put $100 billion toward broadband, the latest bipartisan agreement, or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, currently only designates $65 billion to broadband.

The details of the new agreement are still unclear and issues of contention remain. It is also, uncertain how the funding is proposed to be allocated. Some articles and insiders suggest the majority of the funding will be given to states and the rest split between smaller federal programs, leaving out the FCC, which is the main agency currently administering broadband programs. In addition, the White House recently released fact sheets for each individual state, to show the needs and impacts the framework proposes to provide across the country.

As additional details come together, the ACA Connects study framework could be helpful for policymakers in determining both appropriate funding levels and allocations to truly improve and expand broadband access. In particular, the report recommends policymakers look at their funding priorities through an availability lens and an adoption lens, both of which require setting eligibility thresholds. For instance, how will “unserved” be defined and which households should be eligible for support. In addition, they suggest funding allocations be determined by what subsidy amount would actually be needed by each household and how many are likely to participate. Using such calculations, the analysis provides sample funding approaches and cost assessments in addition to its overall estimate. The report suggests that with $35-67 billion the U.S. could increase broadband availability to 19 million locations.

Whether policymakers will consider the analysis remains as unknown as whether they will complete the current federal infrastructure deal as proposed. One thing does remain clear - even if a deal is finalized and passed, how the funding is targeted will remain vital to its success at improving broadband access.

For more information review the ACA Connects full analysis - https://acaconnects.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Addressing-Gaps-in-Broadband-Infrastructure-Availability-and-Service-Adoption-ACA-Connects-and-Cartesian-June2021.pdf.