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What's New in Civic Tech: FCC Pushes More Broadband Funding

Plus, USDA invests in rural infrastructure, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute extends digital equity programs, and appointments are made to the Texas Broadband Development Office Board of Advisors.

Two recent announcements from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicate significant nationwide broadband expansion opportunities.

This week, the FCC announced a commitment of close to $603 million in its sixth wave of funding through the Emergency Connectivity Fund program. These funds will bring connectivity to over 1.4 million students across the nation, with the goal of addressing the homework gap. Funding can support off-campus learning, homework and virtual learning efforts. The funding will affect 1,651 schools, 85 libraries and 14 consortia, offering 1.2 million devices and over 700,000 broadband connections.

This follows news from the FCC last week about a fifth round of funds that is ready to be authorized for broadband through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The funding, which will amount to over $1 billion over 10 years, will impact 500,000 locations in 32 states.

More information about these announcements can be found on the FCC’s website.


The United States Department of Agriculture announced $5.2 billion in funding for critical rural infrastructure — including broadband, clean water and reliable electricity — in 46 states and Puerto Rico.

The announcement highlights several major efforts, one being an $86 million loan for Coweta-Fayette EMC to build and improve line in Georgia under the Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. Another notable investment is a $2.6 million Community Connect grant that will help the Interior Telephone Company to build a 19-mile fiber-to-the-premises system in Alaska.


The Massachusetts Broadband Institute announced it will extend multiple programs launched this year through Partnerships for Recovery to improve digital equity.

For example, the Mass. Internet Connect program, which was first announced in January 2021, will now run through June 30, 2022. This program has helped over 4,000 unemployed individuals with Internet subsidies, devices, digital literacy services or a combination of these resources.

Another extension goes to the Wi-Fi hot spot program, which was launched in April 2020. The program created Wi-Fi sites in 26 communities, offering connectivity in communities that have not yet gained access to high-speed connections through Last Mile projects.

Other digital equity programs, such as the Essex County digital equity programs, are being expanded to other parts of Massachusetts.


This week, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced three appointments to the Broadband Development Office Board of Advisors: Sergio Contreras, Robert F. McGee and Scott R. Muri.

Contreras is the president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and has extensive private-sector experience. McGee is the senior vice president of telecom operations at Quanta, who has over two decades of experience in the broadband space. Muri is the superintendent of Ector County ISD and brings an education-sector perspective to the table.

“I have complete confidence that my appointments will make recommendations that strengthen broadband access and quality in Texas,” said Patrick in the announcement.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.