The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021 includes several provisions that address broadband deployment, digital inclusion, and broadband affordability through direct appropriations to federal agencies. This means the funding will not come directly to the state, so Colorado’s benefit from these nationally competitive programs will depend on applications from qualifying consumers, internet service providers, or local and state agencies. The bill was enacted on Dec. 27, 2020, so there are still many aspects and details that have not been ironed out. Here’s what we know so far.
The key broadband-related provisions in the bill include the following:
- USDA Broadband Programs
- $635 million for the USDA Reconnect Broadband Loan & Grant Program.
- $60 million for the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program.
- $35 million for the USDA Community Connect Broadband Grant Program.
- FCC Broadband Programs
- $98 million to implement the Broadband DATA Act to improve broadband mapping accuracy and accountability.
- $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, under which eligible households may receive a discount off the cost of broadband service (up to $50 monthly benefit per eligible household and up to $75 on tribal lands). The FCC has 60 days to create regulations. Public comments are due Jan. 25 and reply comments are due Feb. 16, 2021.
- $250 million for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
- $1.9 billion to “Rip and Replace” certain unsecure equipment as directed by recent FCC regulations.
- NTIA Broadband Programs
- $300 million to implement a broadband infrastructure deployment grant program benefiting rural areas, prioritizing applications delivering 100/20 Mbps or better broadband service in areas without access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service.
- $285 million to create the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the NTIA, focusing on access and adoption for minority communities.
- $1 billion to expand access and adoption of broadband on tribal lands.
- U.S. Department OF Education was appropriated $82 billion for continuation of CARES Act programs, allocated as follows:
- $4.1 billion for Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.
- $54.3 billion for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Colorado’s ESSER II allocation is $519 million. While this is a continuation of the CARES Act program, there are slight differences between ESSER and ESSER II.
- $22.7 billion for Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund.
Note: At the time of this posting some of the links contained above have not been updated to reflect the CRRSA funds.