Federal officials on Friday announced nearly $ 300 million in new grants designed to expand access to high-speed Internet, as part of a federal government’s longer effort to make broadband more accessible nationwide.
The funds are earmarked for 13 states or territories, including Kentucky, Washington and Missouri, and are expected to give more than 130,000 families the opportunity to use faster Internet services, according to a senior Commerce official.
Expanding broadband Internet access in areas without it was a priority of President Joe Biden’s administration, which initiated last year’s $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that included tens of billions of dollars to expand access to the service.
“Today’s awards are another example of the Biden administration’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and building strong partnerships with those who can help us expand our Internet access,” said Gina Raymond, Secretary of Commerce, in a statement.
The money from these grants, however, comes from a bill on appropriations approved by Congress in late 2020, according to senior Ministry of Commerce officials.
Administration officials are still waiting for new maps from the Federal Communications Commission to determine in which areas there is no access to high-speed Internet, before distributing the bulk of the money allocated by infrastructure law, the process is expected to continue until summer.
Trade officials said this round of investment would help lay the groundwork for future larger investments.
In Missouri, for example, the State Department of Economic Development receives about $ 42 million to expand high-speed Internet access to more than 13,000 families in a dozen counties, including Butler, Marion, Shelby, Monroe, Jasper, Pulaski, Lincoln, St. The counties of Charles, St. Louis, Livingston, McDonald and Boone.
In Washington, the State Department of Commerce will receive $ 30 million to expand access to more than 7,000 families in rural areas, including the counties of Ferry, Jefferson, Kittitas, Akanogan and Stevens.
And in Scott County, Kentucky, the federal government is allocating a grant of approximately $ 3 million to connect more than 5,000 households to high-speed broadband access.
Proponents of high-speed Internet access say it’s a necessary part of modern life that allows users to do everything from doing business to attending school even in remote locations. Its lack in rural areas, they say, is the reason the region is losing population and is economically difficult.
The total amount of grants announced on Friday is $ 277 million.