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President Joe Biden’s broadband billions are finally making their way to rural communities

The Treasury Department is funding 83,000 new connections

Image: Alex Castro / The Verge

On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced that it would provide millions of dollars to build out high-speed broadband projects in four states.

The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF), which provides $10 billion for states and tribal governments to fund new broadband networks. The combined projects — in Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota — will expand high-speed broadband to over 83,000 homes and businesses, according to a Treasury Department Thursday press release.

“The pandemic was many things but one thing that was for sure was a national teaching moment of the need for accessible strong broadband in the home that was strong enough that multiple people could both work and learn in each room,” White House American Rescue Plan director Gene Sperling said in a call with reporters on Thursday.

The four states will receive varying amounts of funding for high-speed internet projects that meet or exceed 100 megabits per second in upload and download speeds. Those speeds are dramatically faster than the Federal Communications Commission’s current requirements: 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Last March, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) put out a letter demanding that the FCC boost its minimum delivery speed 100 megabits up and down.

“This funding will lay the foundation for the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet and reduce broadband bills for American households and businesses,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement on Thursday.

Projects that receive American Rescue Plan funding from the Treasury must participate in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) instituted in the law, White House officials confirmed on Thursday. The ACP provides low-income consumers a $30 per month subsidy to cover the cost of internet service.

In May, President Joe Biden announced a new partnership with 20 broadband providers, like AT&T and Verizon, to improve their low-income plans. The providers promised to boost speeds and lower the cost of the broadband plans in a way that could provide free and fast service to qualifying individuals. The FCC previously estimated that nearly 50 million families are eligible to receive the monthly subsidy.

In June, the Treasury announced the first four state funding recipients, including Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia. Combined with Thursday’s latest round of project winners, the Capital Projects Fund is expected to expand access to nearly 300,000 homes and businesses so far.