With many billions of dollars in funding and grants being activated, the US has “one big shot” to bridge the digital divide and ensure all US residents have access to affordable, reliable, and fast internet connectivity.
That’s according to Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the US government official responsible for overseeing the massive $65 billion federal investment in internet access.
Speaking to delegates at CES 2023 in Las Vegas on January 7, Assistant Secretary Davidson said that 2023 marks “a very historic moment” in the NTIA’s history, largely because of the unprecedented levels of funding and once-and-for-all push to solve the internet connectivity problems of unserved and underserved communities across the States.
A Moment of Challenge and Opportunity
Assistant Secretary Davidson said, “The internet is the essential tool for communication in our modern world, and yet today there are still millions of people and families that don’t have the access or the skills that they need to take advantage of the opportunities of the modern digital economy. That’s about to change. We’ve been talking about the digital divide for many years, but we have finally been given the serious resources we need to close that gap.”
The initiative is called “Internet for All” and has already seen $1.7 billion in connectivity grants for more than 200 underserved Tribal entities handed out last year, plus more than $300 million in grants to help states prepare for the upcoming programs, with many more grants to come in 2023 and beyond.
“In 2023, we will be moving to the next phase of the program, determining how much money each state will be getting, and supporting them as they develop their plans,” added Assistant Secretary Davidson.
He said, “This is a moment of great challenge and opportunity. We do not often spend tens of billions of dollars to do something in this country. This is our one big shot to get it right.”
Solving State Problems Through Collaboration
During the subsequent panel discussion at the CES event (pictured), Veneeth Iyengar, Executive Director of the Louisiana State Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, said he was inspired by the technology on display at CES to work more urgently to grab the opportunities provided by NTIA and other connectivity funding.
“When we talk to different folks in Louisiana, whether they’re a healthcare professional, a teacher, a parent, a farmer, a small business owner — it’s really critical because they’re all telling us very different ways and use cases that internet is going to be impactful to their lives,” said Iyengar.
He added, “All the federal resources from the NTIA [and elsewhere] that are being deployed will be executed at state level. That presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between the feds, and us, and the industry — all of you, frankly — and community leaders to discover what the future looks like in states like Louisiana.”
As of January 3, 2023, the FCC has opened the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) window for facilities-based broadband service providers to report where they made mass-market broadband internet access service available as of December 31, 2022. The data must be submitted no later than March 1, 2023. For more details, visit https://bdc.fcc.gov/bdc.