Colorado’s $826.5M plan to provide internet for all gets OK from Biden administration

Colorado’s $826.5M plan to provide internet for all gets OK from Biden administration

Colorado’s plan to make sure 99% of residents in the state have reliable, fast and affordable internet got the final boost it needed: $826.5 million. The Biden administration said Tuesday it approved how Colorado plans to use the federal funds to get the job done.

“We are so thrilled to be the eighth state to be approved,” Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday during a news conference. “It’s just such a fundamental building block of so many services and our economy, where it is today and even more so in the future.”

Like many states, Colorado has struggled to get internet service to 100% of its households, mainly because private companies that have spent decades building the infrastructure will only do so if it’s profitable. Rural areas where houses are miles apart from towns and neighbors are costly to reach. The state has awarded small grants and loans to internet providers to offset costs and that’s helped get the state to 91.9% covered.

The Infrastructure Act that Congress passed in 2021 set aside $42.5 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, known as BEAD. It provided $100 million to every state to improve broadband access. The remainder was distributed based on the state’s unserved and underserved populations, or those with internet service speeds below 100 megabits per second down, and 20 mbps up. 

The BEAD funds should be enough to get 99% of the state’s households covered, according to the Colorado Broadband Office, the main contact for internet providers, cities and organizations working to expand internet access. Brandy Reitter joined CBO as executive director in 2022. A plethora of new grants will soon be available that will help local providers reach those households miles away from the main internet pipes.

Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office, Brandy Reitter, works from her home office in Eagle, Nov. 1, 2022. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

“CBO is off to the races in terms of launching our program,” said Reitter, who joined Polis on the call. “In July, we’re going to open up public comment for a draft of our guidelines, as well as our project area maps. … And then, shortly after we finalize the public comment and those documents, we will turn to phase two, which is really the meat and potatoes.”

That’s when internet providers and other organizations can start applying for grants to offset the cost of building broadband infrastructure to regions of the state that have been without internet service or adequate service. She estimates that could start in August.

“We should be able to meet those deliverables pretty well over the next two or three months,” she said. 

Another big piece of what the Biden administration calls Internet for All is affordability. Plans to address the high cost of internet service also were required, said Evan Feinman, BEAD director for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the rollout of the program nationwide.

“Colorado came forward with a very strong proposal. It’s effectively a $30 per month plan with the opportunity for providers in high-cost areas to wave up to a higher figure based on their cost,” Feinman said. 

The $30 cost is similar to the amount provided by the federal government in its Affordable Connectivity Program, which ended last month and cut off up to 250,000 Colorado households receiving the $30 monthly subsidy to offset internet costs. 

As the ACP program wound down due to funds running out, some internet providers like Comcast reminded users of its $9.95 monthly Internet Essentials service, while the state pointed to Lifeline, a $9.25 federal subsidy for very low-income households to offset internet costs. The CBO said that moving forward, all grantees of future BEAD funding must offer a low-cost plan as part of their slate of internet options.

Colorado also included a workforce development plan to create 3,000 jobs to build the infrastructure and provide future maintenance.

The eight states joined the District of Columbia to get BEAD plans approved so far. Those are:

  • Colorado, $826.5 million
  • New Hampshire, $196 million
  • Pennsylvania, $1.1 billion
  • District of Columbia, $100 million 
  • Delaware, $107 million
  • Washington, $1.2 billion
  • Kansas, $451.7 million
  • Nevada, $416.6 million
  • West Virginia, $1.2 billion

>> View Colorado’s proposal

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#Colorados #826.5M #plan #provide #internet #Biden #administration


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