State and Federal Policies Seek to Expand Broadband Access in Florida

 

Expanded infrastructure for enhanced broadband internet could be coming to Florida as state lawmakers and the Florida Internet and Television (FIT) addressed new state and federal policies on Thursday. The policies aim to provide internet access to more Floridians.

The Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $42.5 billion for broadband with at least $100 million headed to Florida.

Over the past two years, the Florida Legislature established two measures through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Office of Broadband and the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Program (CSLFRP) which laid the foundation for expanded internet access.

As reported by Florida Politics, the vice president and member of the state legislative counsel for the Internet & Television Association, Alex Minard, praised the policies. Minard stated, “It’s a historic step to speed the deployment of next generation networks to unserved households, and to build a durable support mechanism that will help low income families connect to the internet.”

He added, “Something to keep an eye on is how the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) talks about that transition. And it will be a challenge for providers who are existing and have current customers in the emergency benefit program to transition them over to the new program if they choose.”

The emergency benefits program Minard references is the monthly $50 discount on the internet for qualified households along with a one-time discount of $100 for an internet-enabled device that the FCC established during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for the state programs, the DEO’s Office of Broadband was created in 2020 and received $1.5 million to produce a broadband availability map. The map can be provided to local technology planning teams – that were also created in 2020 – in order to fully understand broadband availability in the state.

“It is to better identify assets relevant to broadband deployment, and really help communities prepare for all of the federal funding that was just previously mentioned,” said the DEO’s Katie Smith in the Florida Politics report.

The CSLFRP – created during COVID-19 – allocates $16 billion for water, sewer, or broadband expansion. An additional $366 million provided by the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund is for projects that enable work, education and health monitoring in the state, could also be received.

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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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