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What’s New in Civic Tech: FCC Sends $1.2B to Rural Broadband

Plus, the U.S. Department of Commerce will invest $1.5 million in tribal connectivity programs; Georgia awards $408 million to broadband grants; North Carolina announces $350 million of grant funding for broadband; and more.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will send $1.2 billion of funding for rural broadband projects across 32 states.

This funding will happen through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, with this announcement marking the largest round for that fund to date. It is expected to help 23 broadband providers reach more than 1 million locations with new or improved service.

Along with this new round of funding, the FCC has also announced that it is creating a Rural Broadband Accountability Plan, intended to monitor compliance for universal service high-cost programs, including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

In addition, the accountability plan makes other changes, too. These include increasing the audits and verifications of funding recipients, doubling audits in 2022 as compared to the year prior. This increase will especially apply to the recipients of the highest levels of funding. The last piece of the new accountability measures involves increased transparency. The results of verifications, audits and speed performance testing will, in fact, now be available to the public via the Universal Service Administrative Company’s website.

A full fact sheet for the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan is online now.

This marks the sixth wave of funding coming out of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, with the FCC having now announced more than $4 billion of funding. The money is going to the winning bidders for new broadband deployment, as the FCC continues to review applications for more funding on a rolling basis. The fund was established in January 2020, in advance of the outbreak of a pandemic that would push Internet connectivity near the front of most government priority lists. (Zack Quaintance)


The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded three additional grants, totaling $1.5 million, as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

Two of the grants, awarded to the Village of Clarks Point and the Native Village of Selawik in Alaska, will fund broadband use and adoption projects. The other grant, awarded to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Lincoln, Ore., will be used for a planning study. This marks a total of eight awards totaling about $4 million through this program. Additional awards will be announced on a rolling basis.

In addition, the agency is building out its senior leadership by naming two new members following the confirmation of Alan Davidson as assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information. The first, April McClain-Delaney, has been named deputy assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information. McClain-Delaney was formerly the Washington director of Common Sense Media. Former Mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., Andy Berke is to join NTIA as a special representative for broadband. (Julia Edinger)


Government entities nationwide have anticipated how they will use the significant federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for broadband expansion. In an announcement this week, Georgia officials revealed nearly $408 million in preliminary awards for expanding broadband access in 70 counties in the state. In total, 49 ARPA grant projects were selected to receive the funding.

The new awards indicate the initial phase of rolling out COVID-19 relief funds that were allocated to the state through the ARPA. The applications were received by bipartisan committees, members of which were announced by Gov. Brian Kemp in June 2021. These committees, and specifically the Broadband Infrastructure Committee, made recommendations to the governor on how to invest funds in unserved and underserved locations in the state.

The state is now collecting information and collaborating with grant recipients to maximize the impact of investments. The complete list of recipients can be found in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)


Finally, in another move in the broadband space, an announcement from North Carolina officials last week calls for eligible Internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives to apply for up to $350 million in grants to expand broadband infrastructure and increase connectivity in the state.

The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act as well to support the largest round of Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grants in the state. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.