The news: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it’s funding as much as $1.2 billion through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to expand broadband access in 32 states.
What this means: The funding is independent of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed last year. That bill budgeted $65 billion for investing in access to reliable, high-speed broadband access and is the largest funding round so far, per The Verge.
The bigger picture: The pandemic has only amplified the gaps in broadband connectivity affecting rural communities and millions of users required to work and attend school remotely, adding urgency to the funding of broadband initiatives.
Improved countrywide access can also result in an economic upshot. The national high-speed internet initiatives providing universal, reliable internet may add $160 billion per year to the US economy, according to a study conducted by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group (AESG).
What’s the catch? Expediency is key. Releasing the funds and actively monitoring the deployment of broadband infrastructure is long overdue for areas that need it the most. However, general component shortages, specifically fiber shortages, could further delay wider broadband adoption.