US Treasury Approves CPF Funds for Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin

The U.S. Treasury Department announced this week the latest cohort of states approved to receive money for broadband infrastructure from the American Rescue Plan’s $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“Together, these states will use their funding to connect more than 91,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed Internet,” according to the Treasury’s press release.

Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia were the first states approved to receive CPF funds in June; followed by Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota in July; and Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Arkansas in August.

The latest tranche of CPF funds totals a little over $435 Million with Massachusetts approved for $145 million to fund new broadband infrastructure; $250.6 million for Michigan; and $40 million for Wisconsin.

A virtual press event was held on Thursday announcing the awards, led by Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to the President and American Rescue Plan Coordinator; Jacob Leibenluft, U.S. Treasury Chief Recovery Officer; U.S. Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan; and Chairwoman of Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission Rebecca Cameron Valcq.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the funds will be used for the Commonwealth’s Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program. The state estimates that will be enough to connect 16,000 households and businesses, which represents 27 percent of locations in the state that lack high-speed Internet access.

Sen. Markey spoke to the importance of high-speed Internet connectivity and how it touches nearly every aspect of day-to-day life:

The Internet is the connective tissue of our commercial, social, and civic lives allowing friends and families to communicate across continents; for small businesses to reach new markets; and we just saw in Florida and Puerto Rico that Internet access issues becomes even more important when disaster strikes. When technology is deployed it educates, but it also leads to innovations in all corners of our country.

As it relates to Massachusetts, he said, “we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of technological innovation but we can still see the holes out in the Berkshires, which is rural. And, we also know that black, brown and immigrant families are left behind. Smaller businesses, they get left behind. We have to do better.”

The funds going to Massachusetts will “bring high speed Internet to thousands of Massachusetts households, especially those who are in communities of color,” he said, noting that hundreds of millions more in additional broadband infrastructure funds will be coming to the state from the infrastructure bill.

Treasury officials noted that the CPF funds in Massachusetts, and in other states, encourages all Internet service providers to apply for funding through state broadband offices in charge of administering the funds – and not just private providers but also municipal entities as well as electric or telephone cooperatives.

When ILSR followed up with Brian H. Noyes, Director of Communications and Marketing for the MassTech Collaborative, he said the Gap Networks Grant Program is “a new project, separate and distinct from (the) existing Last Mile Grant program.” Noyes added the new funds will be available to communities across the Commonwealth “and will have an initial priority focus on bringing connectivity to unserved locations.”

Noyes also noted that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is still in the process of determining exactly what parts of the state are considered “unserved,” which involves MBI’s ongoing effort to create its own broadband availability maps.

As is the case with every state that receives CPF funds, one requirement for providers who use the funds is they must build networks that can provide speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical service as well as participate in the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides income eligible households with a $30 per month subsidy to pay for broadband subscriptions as well as a one-time $100 subsidy to purchase an Internet-connected device.

Michigan

Michigan’s portion of CPF funds is $250.6 million, which state officials estimate will connect 67,857 households and businesses – representing 23 percent of locations in The Great Lakes State that still lacks high-speed Internet access.

Those funds will go to the Michigan Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) program, a competitive grant program that funds new networks in areas of the state where residents do not have access to service with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, an advocate for expanding broadband access in rural America, credited The American Rescue Plan for meeting the needs of Michiganders “left behind because too many of our rural and low-income communities did not have high-speed Internet,” adding that it was “exciting to see the results here in Michigan.”

Wisconsin

For The Badger State, the Treasury approved $40 million to fund new broadband infrastructure. With those funds state officials estimate it will connect 8,000 households and businesses through the Wisconsin Broadband Infrastructure Projects program. As in Michigan, Wisconsin will target those funds at parts of the state that do not have “consistent, reliable service (with) consistent speeds of 100/20 Mbps.”

Of the three states awarded CPF funds this week, Wisconsin got the lesser amount, which is because the amount approved represents only 21 percent of the state’s total allocation under the CPF program. Wisconsin’s plans to unlock the rest of its CPF funds are still being reviewed by Treasury officials. Officials also noted how the funds Wisconsin was approved for in this latest tranche “will complement $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds the state has already committed for its State Broadband Expansion Grant Program, which includes funds from the Rescue Plan’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF). All told, the CPF and SLFRF funds are expected to connect an estimated 31,000 residential and business locations.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the combination of Rescue Plan funds meant Wisconsinites will be able to “get the telehealth they need, work from home, and participate in remote learning, all while creating good-paying jobs along the way.”

Inline image of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker looking at installation of the municipal network in Becket, MA, courtesy of Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)