WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – More than 10 million rural Americans could soon have better access to high-speed internet.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently awarded $9 billion to states to expand broadband in these unserved areas through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
“The FCC, after we have beat on them like they stole Christmas, has come around to our way of looking at things,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA.
The FCC periodically auctions off airwaves to companies to raise money. Kennedy, who chairs the Senate committee over the FCC budget, wanted to target those funds.
“I and a number of my colleagues had not so gently suggested to the FCC that they spend some of that money they raise through auctioning off the spectrum on helping people who don’t have broadband,” he said.
Kennedy’s state of Louisiana will receive about $340 million.
“I can’t build the broadband for them, but we can sure encourage the state to giddy up,” he said.
States will need to set up the infrastructure, but Congress is trying to help with that, too.
“The pieces are indeed falling into place,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN.
The CARES Act gave pandemic relief to states, and Blackburn’s legislation would provide even more grants to expand broadband infrastructure.
“Not only will it open up access to telehealth, distance learning and remote-work opportunities, it will open up the local economy and encourage growth and outside investment,” Blackburn said.
Tennessee will receive about $150 million from the FCC and potentially more when the agency awards a second round, up to $11 billion, in grants.
“We’ll keep pounding on the FCC to do more,” Kennedy said.
The FCC reports 180 bidders won funding, including companies like Charter Communications and SpaceX, to make high-speed internet accessible to more than five million unserved homes and businesses.
To view how much money your state will receive, click here.