August 03, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, today hailed the historic $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The broadband provisions include over $40 billion in block grants to states and $2 billion for tribal governments, mirroring the bipartisan BRIDGE Act introduced by Senators King, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earlier this year. If passed, this would be the largest federal broadband investment in U.S. history.
“The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that broadband is essential infrastructure – which is why the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill includes the largest-ever investment in broadband,” said Senator King. “The bipartisan legislation includes $65 billion to support broadband deployment and help extend the internet’s opportunities to every corner of our country, so Americans of all backgrounds can fully participate in work, connect to remote and in-school learning, and access healthcare regardless where they live. access the connectivity they need to work, learn, shop, and more.
“I’m particularly thrilled that of that $65 billion, over $40 billion will go directly to states through block grants, reflecting my bipartisan proposal with Senators Bennet and Portman,” Senator King added. “These funds will increase broadband connectivity, affordability, and speeds for millions of Americans, while prioritizing the resilient, future-proof infrastructure that we need. This is a proud day, which will create enormous possibilities as more American communities get the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy.”
IIJA provides $65 billion for broadband, over $40 billion of which goes to states via block grants as the senators proposed in the BRIDGE Act. This includes over $2 billion for broadband on Tribal lands, which the senators also proposed in their original bill. IIJA also adapts the BRIDGE Act’s provisions to require new networks to meet minimum quality standards and provide at least one tier of affordable broadband service, while prioritizing even faster, future proof networks. As in the BRIDGE Act, states would have broad flexibility to close the digital divide based on their local needs, from deploying new high-speed networks to promoting broadband affordability and adoption.
The IIJA also includes Senator King’s Digital Equity Act, investing $2.75 billion in an array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”— a concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the, “condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.” Through these provisions, the IIJA establishes grants to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each state, as well as a competitive grant program to support projects undertaken by groups, coalitions, or communities.
As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator King has been a strong advocate for expanding affordable broadband access as a way to increase economic opportunity in rural Maine – and has raised the issue consistently during the coronavirus pandemic. Senator King has introduced the bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021, which would create new federal investments targeted toward a diverse array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”. He played a key role in securing the inclusion of billions of dollars in the American Rescue Plan for broadband investment – which he voted in favor of, and published an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News emphasizing the plan’s historic investment in broadband. The March edition of Senator King’s “Inside Maine” podcast focused on this historic investment during a conversation with Tilson Technologies’ Josh Broder, and Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kathryn de Wit. Senator King has also urged the Biden Administration to update federal standards for high-speed broadband to reflect modern uses, calling for updating the definition of high-speed broadband to 100 megabits per second of upload and download speed.