In a new report commissioned by WIA, Tilson, a company that provides network deployment and construction technology, analyzes all U.S. state preparations to implement unprecedented broadband infrastructure funding, finding differing levels of readiness and varying approaches. In its analysis, Tilson identified 13 states and territories with no proposed or enacted legislation to create broadband grant programs to implement broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
In addition to evaluating the status of state broadband programs, WIA’s State Broadband Program Analysis report also identified varying levels of receptiveness to funding wireless broadband projects across states, territories, and districts.
With IIJA’s historic $65 billion in broadband funding to be administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s state grant program, states and territories without broadband grant programs in place could experience delays or fail to maximize funding for eligible broadband infrastructure projects, asserts WIA.
“In this illuminating report WIA commissioned for our members, we found that states are in dramatically different places when it comes to their level of preparedness and sophistication in their broadband grant programs. With the historic levels of broadband funding in the recently enacted bipartisan bill, many need to get moving,” said WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein.
“Of the 54 states, districts, and territories researched, Tilson found that only a handful (6 out of 54) of these locations were in a phase of broadband program development that could be categorized as ‘pre-planning,’ with no proposed or passed legislation (ARPA/IIJA-related or legacy state programs) to create broadband grant programs,” Tilson states in its report.
Five out of 54 jurisdictions have proposed but not yet passed legislation for broadband programs while 18 have passed some broadband program legislation at some point, either for their own state-funded (legacy) programs, or earlier/ongoing federal broadband grant programs.
The largest number of jurisdictions (25 out of 54) surveyed are actively funding and awarding grants either for ongoing legacy programs or current or upcoming federal programs, according to Tilson’s executive summary.
Adelstein called it “concerning” that only about half of states and territories view wireless broadband favorably. “They might benefit from asking their citizens whether they value their smartphones instead of deciding technologies for them,” he said. Adelstein emphasized that WIA worked hard to ensure Congress enabled states to leverage all available broadband technologies, “but we are now seeing many states taking a narrow view that will needlessly limit their own choices and services available to consumers in their states.”