ICYMI: Senator Murray Passes Digital Equity Act, Helps Secure $65 Billion in Broadband Investments in Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – MORE HERE
***WATCH VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE***
(Tacoma, WA) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Pierce County elected officials and local education and community leaders for a virtual discussion about how American Rescue Plan dollars are being implemented to expand broadband to underserved areas in Pierce County. Senator Murray also discussed forthcoming investments that Pierce County and Washington state can expect from the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Senator Murray was joined by Derek Young, Pierce County Council Chair; Hugh Taylor, Principal Policy Analyst for the Office of the Pierce County Council; Mark Cockerill, Director of the Key Peninsula Community Council; Betty Capestany, Director of Economic Development for Pierce County; and Tom Seigel, Superintendent for Bethel School District.
“It’s great to see Pierce County putting American Rescue Plan funds to work because in 2021, it’s really past time that we think about high speed internet like we do running water or electricity. For everyone in Pierce County, a reliable internet connection means being able to get an education, apply for jobs, or access important benefits like unemployment,”said Senator Murray. “That’s why I’m so glad we were able to pass the bipartisan infrastructure law which puts us firmly on the path toward universal broadband and will help cut costs while bridging the digital divide here in Pierce County and across Washington state.”
A longtime advocate for expanding broadband access, Senator Murray worked to include $7 billion in flexible broadband funding for Washington state and its local governments in the American Rescue Plan. Of that funding, the Pierce County government received $175 million. Pierce County schools have also received nearly $5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to purchase devices for students and help them get online. Local broadband projects are also eligible for competitive grants through the Capital Projects Fund established by the American Rescue Plan, which can directly support remote work, education, and health monitoring through broadband deployment and adoption programs. Washington state was allocated nearly $200 million from the fund and the Washington State Broadband Office will distribute the awards on a competitive basis.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Senator Murray helped pass, will provide at least $100 million for broadband deployment in Washington state to help families access reliable, high-speed internet, with more federal dollars available through grant funding. Additional grant funding will be allocated by need—through the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The allocation will primarily be based on the number of household and business locations in that state or territory that are unserved by highspeed broadband. Washington state will be required to work with broadband providers to ensure that each broadband provider that receives funding offers at least one affordable service plan.
This historic investment includes Senator Murray’s Digital Equity Act, which will help close the digital divide by funding activities that seek to provide individuals and communities with the skills, supports, and technologies necessary to take full advantage of a broadband internet connection when they have one. Through the $2.75 billion provided by the Digital Equity Act, NTIA will implement a formula-based state grant program and a competitive grant program with funds available to accelerate the adoption of broadband through digital literacy training, workforce development, devices access programs, and other digital inclusion measures.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage, promote transparency and competition, and reduce the cost of broadband internet service for people across Washington state. The law will establish a new Affordable Connectivity Program that will make the existing Emergency Broadband Benefit permanent and expand its eligibility to help an estimated 1,409,000 or 19% of Washington state residents, who will be eligible for $30/month benefit to get online. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the FCC will also have one year to issue new broadband label rules that will provide transparency on the broadband rates paid by consumers.