Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) slammed the lack of dedicated broadband funding in the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan . “This glaring omission is a betrayal of the rural voters that supported him in his election, and a missed opportunity to close the digital divide that separates rural and urban America,” Welch said in a statement. The administration’s infrastructure plan proposes $200 billion in direct federal spending over 10 years, with $50 billion for rural infrastructure but no carveout for broadband.
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
Blair Levin at Brookings Policy Institute points out the problem of no carveouts for rural broadband:
The big question, then, is how broadband fares in the rural bucket designed to receive 25 percent of the funds, or roughly $50 billion. These funds will be distributed to governors according to a formula, leaving the states with full discretion over allocations to eligible uses. All states have institutions, like Departments of Transportation and Water Resources, with expertise in identifying specific needs and allocating funds for transportation and water resources. By contrast, while all 50 states have created broadband task forces or commissions, few have permanent institutions with significant experience allocating grants to rural broadband. This institutional imbalance will likely lead to more effective lobbying for non-broadband uses.
More on this issue in future posts. It looks like rural broadband is going to be orphaned again. In addition to Caltrans for transportation and Water Board for water infrastructure, we have a Governor promoting water tunnels and over budget high-speed rail projects. Rural broadband is not on the Governor’s radar.