The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced an interagency agreement to coordinate the distribution of Federal broadband deployment funds.
The agreement comes as a result of the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. As part of the information sharing and coordination agreement, agencies will consult with one another and share information about the distribution of new funds from the FCC’s programs that support broadband buildout in rural areas, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs, and programs administered or coordinated by NTIA.
“The last fifteen months demonstrated like never before that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Congress rightfully funded broadband deployment at levels we’ve seldom seen in recent years in response to the pandemic,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
“In order to be good stewards of funds supporting these projects, I’m proud to announce with my colleagues that the FCC, NTIA, and USDA will strengthen our coordination to ensure that we make the most effective use of these new funds,” she said. “Working together, we’ll be better able to meet our shared goal of getting 100 percent of Americans connected to the high-speed internet access they need to thrive.”
Each Federal agency partner will be responsible for sharing information about existing or planned projects that receive funding from specified Federal funding sources. “Each partner will also, upon request, identify entities providing broadband service in a specified geographic area; the levels of broadband service in that area, including broadband speeds and technologies deployed; the geographic scope of broadband service in that area; and each entity in that area that has or will receive funds from these programs,” the agencies said in a statement.
The agreement also requires the Federal agency partners to consider basing the distribution of funds from the programs on standardized broadband coverage data. The agreement went into effect immediately after it was announced.
“Generations ago, the Federal government recognized that without affordable access to electricity, Americans couldn’t fully participate in modern society and the modern economy. Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “This is why, under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA remains committed to being a strong partner with rural communities and our state and Federal partners in building ‘future proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the country.”