The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) has received over 230 applications, totaling more than $2.5 billion in funding requests for its Broadband Infrastructure Program, Commerce announced August 25.

The application window closed on August 17, and NTIA has begun reviewing the applications for the $288 million program created in the Consolidated Appropriation Act, 2021 – which included COVID-19 relief and an omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021.

“The intense demand for this program across the country demonstrates the widespread need for better broadband connectivity in unserved communities,” Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in the release. “These investments are critical, but there is more to be done.”

The agency will award grants to covered partnerships between a state or its political subdivisions and broadband providers. According to the release, the agency will give priority to applications from partnerships that:

  1. “Provide broadband service to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area;
  2. Provide broadband service to rural areas;
  3. Are most cost-effective in providing broadband service; or
  4. Provide broadband service with a download speed of at least 100 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 20 Mbps.”

While the NTIA will not be able to approve every application, Raimondo pointed to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that recently passed the Senate as another vehicle to reach digital equity. The bill includes $65 billion for broadband deployment, including a $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment grant program.

“The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, recently passed by the Senate, will expand upon the groundwork being laid by this program to advance digital equity and get us one step closer to every American having access to high-speed, affordable, and reliable Internet,” Raimondo added.

Applications for the program came in from across 49 states and territories. NTIA will go through the review process in three stages: the initial administrative and eligibility review, a merit review, and a programmatic review.

“The state and local governments leading these proposed projects are strong partners with the Federal government in closing the digital divide,” Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley said. “We look forward to working closely with them in these efforts to expand Internet access throughout the country.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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