President Biden’s infrastructure adviser expects the FCC to make significant progress this year on critical broadband mapping to pinpoint rural areas of greatest need.
Mitch Landrieu says the FCC hit roadblocks early, but is now making headway on service maps needed to best target 65 billion Congress approved for rural broadband.
“Congress mandated new maps, and the FCC, they put out a procurement, that procurement was challenged, that challenge was overcome, and FCC is steaming full-force ahead, and working with all of the providers, all of the states, and the Department of Commerce, to identify what that mapping looks like. You are right, that takes a long time, but they’re in the processing of hurrying up.”
But rural lawmakers complained last year it was taking too long, citing cases of rural school kids having to do homework in convenience store parking lots, just to get internet access.
Landrieu predicts their wait may soon be over. “The expectation is, before the end of the year, sometime, that they will have made substantial progress on the work that they’re doing, and that the programs out of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture will be part of that.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says those programs and mapping will also target areas lacking high-speed service.
“It doesn’t have the download and upload speeds, necessary. And that’s the beauty of this infrastructure bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill, because it provides the Department of Agriculture additional resources to address that issue. And that’s the goal of this, the goal isn’t just to have internet, the goal is to have high-speed internet.”
Vilsack says there’s $2 billion in the bill to do that with demand already exceeding funds to improve rural service to homes, hospitals, schools, libraries, businesses and farmers.