Over 200,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia will soon have access to high-speed, affordable broadband thanks to the Capital Projects Fund (CPF), a $10 billion fund established through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2020.
CPF officially launched last fall when the US Department of the Treasury published its guidance for states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments seeking to apply for the funds through a multi-step application process. Treasury has already approved 30 Tribal awards, and today’s announcement marks the first awards to states.
As a reminder, eligible applicants for CPF are states, territories and freely associated states, and Tribal governments. While not a competitive grant program, eligible applicants are required to submit an application and a grant plan to receive their allocated Capital Project Funds. Once applicants receive their funds, they can sub-award funds to other levels or units of government, nonprofits, or private entities.
The guidance allows for multiple uses of the funds, but the projects must be, “critical Capital Projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency.” Broadband infrastructure projects and “digital connectivity projects” were delineated uses in the guidance (see our overview of the CPF guidance here).
The final deadline for states to submit grant plans is September 24, 2022, and we encourage states who have not yet developed plans or are in the midst of developing them to engage digital inclusion practitioners in the planning process and look to these four states as examples of how the funds can be deployed in a way that advances digital equity in tandem with broadband expansion.
The four CPF awards advance digital equity in three key ways:
- Increasing access to unserved entities: ensuring all households have access to high-speed broadband is essential to achieving digital equity. Nearly 200,000 households and businesses that didn’t have access to broadband before these awards will soon have access.
- Prioritizing affordability: all four states are addressing affordability by requiring the sub-awardees who will build the broadband infrastructure to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), as required by the Treasury guidance.
- Ensuring fast, scalable networks are built: new networks built with these funds will be fast and hopefully future-proof, with minimum speed requirements of 100 Mbps download/100 Mbps upload.
Here are more details on each state’s plan and more information from the Treasury:
Louisiana requested and is using 100 percent of its CPF allocation ($176.7 million) to connect nearly 88,500 unserved homes and businesses through their existing state grant program. Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) program is a multi-phase, broadband infrastructure competitive grant program, which will connect approximately 25 percent of all locations lacking high-speed internet access in the state. (Bonus points for the clever acronym.)
New Hampshire will use 41 percent of its available CPF funding for an initial project of $50 million to serve 15,000 homes and businesses, which represent approximately 50 percent of the state’s unserved locations.
Virginia will receive $219.8 million, which is 100 percent of its available CPF funding. It plans to reach 76,873 unserved locations, or approximately 28 percent of locations that lack access to high-quality broadband service, according to state estimates. The funds will be deployed through Virginia’s existing program, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), in which local governments apply for funds, in partnership with internet service providers.
West Virginia also is using 100 percent of its CPF allocation, $136.3 million, to serve 20,000 locations, or approximately 10 percent of its remaining unserved locations, prioritizing the hardest-to-reach locations. Unlike the other states, West Virginia will split the funds into three programs – a line-extension program, a program intended to reach large numbers of people, and GigReady. Notably, ‘GigReady’ will provide local governments the opportunity to leverage the State and Local Fiscal Recover Funds (SLFRF) as matching funds for broadband infrastructure projects.