With the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, municipalities around the country are gearing up to receive funds for updating their physical and digital infrastructure.
In the $1.2 trillion bill, billions were allocated towards improving country-wide broadband internet access, which is set to bring modern digital technology to both rural and urban neighborhoods. But why is better broadband access such a win for communities behind the curve, and how can your local government apply for community broadband funding?
Read on for everything you need to know about the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program and other internet technology provisions of the 2021 infrastructure bill.
What is Broadband Internet?
According to the FCC, broadband, otherwise known as high-speed Internet, “allows users to access the Internet and Internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through "dial-up" services.”
Communities without broadband Internet and fiber optic cables - the infrastructure supporting broadband - are falling to keep up with the growing dependence around the world in digital technology. To make matters worse, as more businesses and employees are shifting to remote work, the economy will only continue to become more dependent on high-speed internet.
Did the Infrastructure Bill Include Funds for Better Broadband Internet Access?
With the passage of the Infrastructure Bill in 2021, over $65 billion was approved to be spent on broadband technology nationwide.
Here’s a deeper breakdown of where the broadband funds will be allocated:
Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program
$42.5 billion of that funding will be passed directly towards the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. Every state will be guaranteed $100 million and will have the opportunity to apply for additional grant funds, which will be deployed at a local level to improve broadband in communities with slow Internet connections.
The bill text highlights that the dispersion of grant funds will be prioritized for, “expansion in rural areas,” communities with low Internet speed rankings, and for ramping up cybersecurity resources and training programs available through the Federal government.
Affordable Connectivity Program
The Affordable Connectivity Fund portion of the bill is setting aside $14 billion to ensure that low income households continue to have access to high-speed internet. The FCC runs this program with the objective of making Internet access accessible to households that struggle to afford Internet service.
The aptly renamed program was formerly called the Emergency Broadband Benefit as a COVID-19 program. The struggle for many adults to continue working remotely led to a substantial loss of income for families that were already struggling financially during the pandemic. Children in homes that could not afford internet struggled to attend virtual school. These issues shined a spotlight on the critical need for all Americans to have access to broadband internet connectivity.
Digital Equity Act
Community broadband access is being made available via the Digital Equity Act, which provides several hundred million each year for the foreseeable future towards digital inclusion, which is the concept that all Americans should have access to the important information and technology made available with high-speed Internet.
For more details about what’s included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, read on in the Infrastructure Bill 2021: What It Means for Local Governments guide.
How to Apply For Broadband Infrastructure Grants?
$1.25 billion is being dispersed directly to states to pass along counties via the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. With proof of eligibility via a well-developed State Digital Equity Plan, government officials within your municipality can receive and administer funding as sub-grantees.
Unserved and underserved communities will also be able to apply directly with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for broadband middle-mile infrastructure projects.
With this funding, your municipality will be able to hire sub-contractors to get the work done.
How Will High-Speed Internet Impact Your Municipality?
Within the text of the bill, there is a clear emphasis on improving broadband connectivity in anchor institutions nationwide, which most certainly includes communal and government buildings in your community. Not to mention, community broadband will bring a lot of positive changes to the quality of life and economy in areas that currently have slow internet speed.
Here are some of the ways that your local government will benefit from improved broadband:
Go paperless: communities with poor internet connection are probably some of the last to still have physical paper filing systems. Let your clerks department take a load off by switching to paperless, cloud-based filing systems.
Let government workers go remote: recruiting in the public sector is more challenging than ever. Now, entice new government workers to come on-board with a hybrid or fully remote position.
Automation: let things like digital permitting and inspection software automate tedious processes. You’ll save time and money and can let constituents apply for permits and inspection requests directly via your government website.
How Will Constituents Benefit From Community Broadband?
Improving internet connection at communal level and providing low income families with internet access will improve the quality of life and local economy.
Here’s some positives of community broadband:
Economic development: businesses can operate from a fully remote-capacity within your town. Constituents will have the opportunity to apply for thousands of remote jobs and can even start a business from the comfort of their homes.
Virtual school: public schools can now viably move online in the case of a COVID-19 breakout. Connections will be stronger for both the teacher and the students.
Digital applications: Let's be honest, no one wants to drive to town hall to fill out paperwork anymore. Broadband internet access means that your constituents can fill out government applications from their couch. What better way to boost their trust in municipal government.
How Can Your Government Make a Digital Transformation?
If you didn’t previously have good internet access, now is your local government’s chance to improve your digital infrastructure with government management software.
These are a few of the ways you can take things a step further digitally with your high-speed municipal broadband:
Get your online permitting established: as mentioned previously, online permitting is a huge win for government workers and community-members. With digital permitting software, you can get online applications set up in a breeze and relevant municipal workers will automatically receive all paperwork via the cloud.
Set up complaint management software: digital communication between municipalities and constituents has become the new norm. With report-a-concern software, people can use that high-speed internet to send quick messages to their municipal leadership to report things like potholes, flooding, and more.
Use GIS software: GIS maps provide digital, 3D representations of your community in real time. Constituents can check-up on things like road closures, fallen tree-branches, etc. via their phone
Embrace social media: chances are, your constituents used social media even before they had high-speed internet. Set up social media accounts for your local government to inform constituents of important community news.
Collect meaningful data: You cannot underestimate how much valuable information you can collect from digital government infrastructure. Government software automatically compiles meaningful information in simple but informative dashboards. Learn what your constituents prioritize most and leverage that by passing policies that make a difference for them.
Improving Digital Infrastructure with Broadband - In Conclusion
The infrastructure bill is posed to make a lot of monumental changes, and access to high-speed internet across the country may be the biggest positive of all.
To learn more about government management software can help you make your digital transformation, book a consultation.
Government Broadband FAQs
1. Why is Broadband in the Infrastructure Bill?
After the COVID-19 health emergency, it was clear that neither one's household income nor their physical location should affect their access to high-speed internet. With assistance programs laid out in the infrastructure bill, broadband service will be improved nationwide in the communities and households that need it most.
2. How Will Better Broadband Help Your Government?
This push for broadband access is just what local governments with antiquated workflows and digital infrastructure needed. Now you can automate tedious tasks with software, hold virtual events, and incentivize employees by offering remote work with secure government tablets, laptops, or a desktop computer.
3. How Will High-Speed Internet Impact Your Community?
The school year during COVID-19 lockdowns would have been a lot less stressful for many children had they not had weak internet service providers. Now, even constituents that meet federal poverty guidelines will be given the opportunity to access broadband.
With the astonishing job loss in 2021, high-speed internet will encourage community-members to consider online job roles, knowing that their Zoom calls won't disconnect and their Google searches will load. That wields the potential to boost the average total income and local economy in your town.
Be sure to let your constituents in dire need know about the emergency broadband support center as a resource to apply for an affordable internet connection.
More helpful resources for your local government: