Tech Policy

White House’s $42 billion plan aims to bridge digital divide in US

The program allocates at least $100 million to each state with the goal of providing broadband access to every American home by 2030.
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· 3 min read

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The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for high-quality accessible internet in the United States. With the rise of remote work and learning, employees and students alike became reliant on the internet to succeed.

Unfortunately, high-speed internet in the US is not ubiquitous, and in some cases, internet at all is hard to come by.

President Joe Biden earlier this month unveiled the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, a $42 billion initiative to help states with broadband infrastructure deployment. BEAD will be funded by the 2021 infrastructure law and overseen by the Commerce Department, according to a White House fact sheet.

The White House said the goal of the program is to provide “reliable, affordable high-speed internet by 2030”—“just like Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act brought electricity to nearly every home and farm in America.”

“High-speed internet isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s become an absolute necessity,” Biden told reporters during a press conference.

When the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021, 77% of Americans had access to home broadband internet, according to a June 2021 Pew Research report, up from 73% in 2019. The gap between urban/suburban and rural broadband access, a major element of the digital divide, shrank from 16 to 7 percentage points over the same period.

BEAD allocates funding to every state and territory, but the funds are not distributed evenly. Texas is eligible for the most, more than $3.3 billion, followed by California, with more than $1.8 billion.

Washington, DC, is slated to receive the lowest award in the contiguous US, around $100 million. Overall, 19 states will each receive more than $1 billion in funding.

The funds were proportioned through the Federal Communications Commission’s  National Broadband Map, which was updated in May. According to the map, 7% of US households and businesses did not have broadband internet access, a figure representing more than 8.3 million American homes and businesses.

Data from previous maps was spotty at best, since it only looked at data from a census-block level, and counted that block as covered if just a single household had broadband access.

States can submit proposals until the end of 2023 on how they plan to allocate their funds, but won’t be able to actually use the money until Commerce approves the plans.

The BEAD funds are just one recent Biden administration effort to improve broadband access across the country, including $930 million in NTIA Middle Mile awards designed to connect local networks to national ones, and more than $700 million in USDA ReConnect awards to help 19 states connect rural communities.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.