Funding can seem like an insurmountable barrier to expanding Internet access and adoption. But for states, local communities, nonprofits, or other organizations looking for some help, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has updated its federal funding search tool for 2020.
Whether you’re looking to find money specific to your region, to pair a broadband project with transportation infrastructure, to expand access on tribal lands, or to connect your community’s anchor institutions, the NTIA can help. The funding search tool also lets users sort through options depending on what stage of the process they’re at, so whether you’re exploring your options via a feasibility study or looking to evaluate or expand adoption rates, the tool has you covered. It also, helpfully, provides funding sources for those looking to fund programs to expand digital literacy skills and training.
You can find, for instance, the USDA ReConnect program there, which helps fund projects in rural areas. We’ve written about how communities in Virginia, Maine, Iowa, and elsewhere have secured ReConnect funding to advance community broadband development in their states. Likewise, we recently wrote about how Cumberland County, Maine, used a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant to fund a broadband plan that brought together several communities seeking better Internet connectivity in the region.
For more, see our two fact sheets on funding: Fact Sheet on Financing Municipal Networks is a reader-friendly overview of the most common ways local governments have funded their broadband networks without raising taxes. Creating Funding Sources for Fiber Infrastructure explores the creative, low-risk, low-cost funding techniques that municipalities all around the country have used to build fiber networks, and provides suggestions for communities weighing options in forming local improvement districts or local utility districts, or taking advantage of Community Development Block Grants.
The tool just one part of NTIA’s BroadbandUSA project, intended to serve as a soup to nuts repository of toolkits, funding opportunities, free webinars on topics like economic revitalization or rural broadband development, and a map of the State Broadband Leaders Network. Our own Christopher Mitchell participated in the Big Sky Broadband Workshop in Missoula, Montana several years ago. BroadbandUSA also hosts a (somewhat outdated, having been published in 2013) comprehensive Broadband Adoption Toolkit, which grew from the experiences of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and provides advice and examples on identifying stakeholders, exploring public-private partnerships, and engaging with populations who face particular barriers to Internet access and adoption.
Whatever the outcome of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act introduced in Congress last week, don’t miss out on federal funding for broadband development in your community.