The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is preparing rules for implementing new federal broadband programs authorized and funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Planners are actively working with administration officials to ensure that any new regulations proposed to support implementation position communities to better plan for broadband.
To that end, NTIA recently convened a group of APA members representing both cities and small towns to better understand the challenges planners face in implementing broadband policy.
NTIA used the private listening session with planners to explore program design, policy issues, and implementation considerations that the agency sees as critical for delivering on the promise of the landmark legislation.
Signed into law late last year, BIL includes $65 billion in new support for broadband and stands up four new programs aimed at closing the availability gap, ensuring more equitable access, strengthening tribal connectivity, and encouraging the expansion and extension of middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of serving unserved and underserved areas.
One program, the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, requires states to engage localities in the development of their state broadband plans.
NTIA is responsible for managing the distribution of $48 billion of the new federal support and focuses on bringing broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities.
Planners were among a shortlist of critical local government stakeholders — including mayors and county administrators — invited to weigh in on regulations before the formal public comment period begins later this year. This early invitation signals the administration's recognition that local planning offices are an important stakeholder in this regulatory process and that planners should be consulted as state regulators and broadband practitioners draw up required state digital equity plans.
Robust support for broadband planning — including dedicated funding for digital equity plans — was among planners' top infrastructure asks of Congress last year. Through our advocacy, planners helped secure $60 million to develop state digital equity plans to achieve digital equity and digital inclusion.
What happens next?
APA will submit formal comments on broadband guidelines when they are proposed later this year. In the meantime, NTIA officials recommend localities and planners connect with their state's broadband offices now before funding becomes available.
State broadband officials need to understand your community's broadband needs and challenges; reaching out now may help ensure that localities have a seat at the table when broadband funding decisions are made.
To learn more about how to influence your state's digital equity planning process, visit NTIA's local government resources page. You can also join NTIA's Digital Equity Leadership Network by emailing broadbandusa@NTIA.gov.
Top image: Getty Images/ alphaspirit
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Pasi is APA's public affairs manager.