Nathan Beacom

Nathan Beacom.

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On Aug. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives moved forward the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which includes investments in roads, bridges, other major public infrastructure projects, and broadband.

One of the most significant funding allotments in the bill is in the realm of digital infrastructure. Some 30 million Americans, mostly rural, are still without the infrastructure for standard internet access speeds, leaving residents without adequate access to high speed internet, which is becoming essential for everything from healthcare to education to work. The Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act dedicates $65 billion to addressing the issue, and attempting to make high speed internet access available to all Americans.

Under the bill, $40 billion in broadband access funding will go to state governments, who will work with local communities to improve access where needed. Internet providers receiving these funds will be required to provide low-cost access options and to make public the speed and reliability of the various tiers they sell.

The bill also includes $14 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which provides $30 a month in assistance for qualifying households. The USDA’s ReConnect program, an existing program that offers grants and loans specifically for rural broadband development projects, will receive $2 billion.

A final vote on this bill isn’t likely to take place until later in the fall, but the influx of federal funding could make a significant difference for our communities.

Nathan Beacom is senior policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.