- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized $166.8 million to support a broadband expansion to 60,850 unserved homes and businesses in rural areas. It’s the second wave of funding from the Connect America fund.
- The funding will go to broadband providers for projects in 22 states, with the goal to expand broadband over the next decade.
- The FCC said the Connect America fund will provide $1.5 billion over 10 years to bring broadband access to 700,000 rural homes and businesses and close the digital divide.
While the FCC is allocating money for digital development, it is also seeking a cap on spending for universal services. The issue is splitting along political lines.
An FCC report released last month said the digital divide was narrowing, with an 18% decrease in the number of Americans without fixed broadband of at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps between 2016 and 2017. That report, which is meant to guide the FCC's broadband access work, has been criticized by Democrats on the commission for relying on inaccurate data that overcounts the number of Americans with broadband.
Microsoft provided data saying the FCC is overcounting households with high-speed Internet, according to the New York Times.
In April, the FCC and Trump administration announced plans for a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would encourage carriers to build 5G infrastructure in rural areas. That's on top of a wide-ranging strategy released by the White House in February, which sets aside $600 million for the US Department of Agriculture to spend on rural broadband, and encourages other agencies to streamlining permitting and infrastructure deployment.
The latest round of funding will support a range of broadband initiatives, from Delaware to Utah and several projects on tribal land in Western states. The first round of Connect America funding, which is backed by revenue from a spectrum auction last fall, distributed $111.6 million to projects in 12 states.