December 27, 2020 saw the US Congress pass the CAA – Consolidated Appropriations Act, which allocated another $5 Billion USD for Broadband Infrastructure as one of the ways to help address the ongoing realities of the pandemic. This funding is intended to address:
· $3.2B Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund – Service and Equipment Subsidies,
· $1B for Tribal Organizations – Infrastructure, Telehealth, Remote Learning, Digital Inclusion,
· $250M for TeleHealth Programs – Non-profit and Teaching Organizations,
· $285M for Minority Communities – Minority Education Institutions.
While the details are still being crafted by Congress, the anticipated timeline is that applications can start to be submitted in March, with approvals coming within 90 days of submission. Successful applicants will then have up to 12 months to spend their funding, with the option to apply for an extension if all funds can’t be spent in the initial 12 months. A great opportunity to get communities connected.
In addition, funding allocated in 2020 from the CARES Act, which are out there now driving many projects, has seen the December 31, 2020 Deadline to spend these funds extended to December 2021. And already, there are additional activities in Congress as recently as last week (Feb 17) proposing another $7.6B of available funds this year for more broadband networking infrastructure.
Early activities and results have shown that some of these funds are being put to good use and put to use quickly, with the rollout of Fixed Wireless Networks, using CBRS/OnGo spectrum, to connect communities for enabling remote learning as the physical return to school is slow, fluid, and widely inconsistent across the US. In short, communities and their school age kids need to be connected with reliable and secure service to emulate an interactive classroom environment as much as possible. CBRS-based private networks have repeatedly shown to be an effective commercial solution in addressing this challenge.