As part of an ambitious plan to bridge the digital divide in the United States, Joe Biden has announced a $42 billion funding initiative under the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program according to Reuters. Aiming to make high-speed broadband access universal by 2030, this commitment is the largest investment in high-speed internet to date.
The funding, authorized by the $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure law, will be distributed among the nation’s 50 states and U.S. territories. The allocation is based on a newly released Federal Communications Commission coverage map that shows gaps in access. Texas and California, the two most populous U.S. states, top the funding list at $3.1 billion and $1.9 billion respectively. Other less populous states such as Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana also feature prominently on the funding list, due to significant broadband access deficits, particularly in their rural areas.
The grants range from $27 million to U.S. territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands to over $3.3 billion for Texas, with every state receiving a minimum of $107 million. The spending plan aims to address the needs of approximately 8.5 million locations in the U.S. that currently lack access to broadband connections.
These areas, typically low-population, rural communities, have been historically underserved by major broadband companies like Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T, which often find it unprofitable to extend services to these areas due to high costs and low subscription rates.
The announcement coincides with the second leg of Biden’s tour, highlighting the impact of legislation passed during the Democratic Party’s control of Congress on average Americans. This comes as Biden’s 2024 re-election bid begins to gear up. He is also set to give a major economic speech in Chicago, laying out so-called “Bidenomics.”
States are expected to submit initial plans later this year to unlock 20% of the funding. Once these plans are finalized, which could take up to 2025, the government will release the remaining money.
However, the initiative’s launch comes at a time when Biden’s approval ratings are low, with 54% of Americans disapproving of how he is handling his job, according to a recent Reuters poll. The 2024 election will, in part, serve as a referendum on Biden’s handling of the economy.