Broadband Accessibility

As was true with waterways, highways, railways, and electricity in prior decades, broadband is a crucial driver of job creation and economic growth. Internet applications reliant on high-speed broadband are increasingly critical for innovations in health care, education, transportation, business, and communications. Access to these technologies has the capacity to impact everything from unemployment rates to retail sales.  

Realizing the importance of broadband, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $7.2 billion to expand broadband services, create jobs, and stimulate economic growth. To build upon prior efforts, investments are still needed at every level (federal, state, and local) to enable all citizens to capitalize upon this technology. 

The need for these investments has been exacerbated by the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic. The region’s ability to realize a post-pandemic recovery that leads to an economy that is truly equitable and resilient is contingent upon ongoing efforts to facilitate deployment of and access to broadband infrastructure and related technologies. Building upon the existing Broadband infrastructure and other economic incentive areas can ensure a sustainable region. Learn more about where Broadband infrastructure exists in Greater Philadelphia and how it relates to the regional CEDS, Growing Greater Philadelphia.

Impact of Broadband

  • 23
    hundred

    Telecommunications Firms
  • 15
    thousand

    Telecommunications Jobs
  • 3.6
    percent

    Higher Unemployment Rate in Areas with Below-Average Rate of Household Broadband Subscription

Broadband Local Action

Local governments can also employ strategies to achieve equitable broadband access. Efforts to do so should be three-pronged, and can be thought of as short, mid, and long term, but they can also be categorized by the action taken. Below are three key components of local Broadband strategies.

ENGAGE | stakeholders and members of the public who currently fall on the wrong side of the divide, as well as those who have the capacity to advance future efforts to bridge it.

EMPOWER | people to fully utilize and leverage the technology so that they are fully able to capitalize upon its benefits.

ENACT | lasting policies and programs that ensure real and tangible progress is made.

Broadband and the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) was enacted into law by the federal government on November 15, 2021, and appropriated funding to ensure equitable access to, and deployment of, broadband infrastructure through the:

  • Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Grant Program:

With the goal of bridging the digital divide in unserved and underserved communities, this program provides grants to projects to connect eligible anchor institutions; installing internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure, or provide reduced-cost broadband, within a multi-family residential building; and advance broadband related data collection, mapping, and planning.

The list of eligible entities includes local governments, public and private utilities, non-profits, public-private partnerships, as well as private companies.

Total funds for this program equal $42,450,000,000, and funding is to be distributed to the states based on the proportion of total unserved and underserved communities, with an initial allocation of $100,000,000 per state.

  • Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program:

The purpose of this program is to support efforts to achieve digital equity, promote digital inclusion activities, and spur greater adoption of broadband within communities.

Eligible entities include state and local governments, non-profits, anchor institutions, local educational agencies, and workforce development entities.

Beginning in 2022, total federal funding available is $250,000,000 each year through 2026.

  • Middle Mile Grant Program:

This program was created to encourage the expansion and extension of middle mile broadband infrastructure, which means any broadband infrastructure that does not connect directly to an end-user location, to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas and to promote broadband connection resiliency.

Entities eligible to apply include state and local governments, tech and telecommunications companies, public utilities, non-profits, regional planning councils, and economic development authorities.

The IIJA appropriates a total of $1,000,000,000 to be available through 2026.

Visit DVRPC's page on the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act for more information on other IIJA programs and transportation-specific opportunities.

Spencer GoberSenior Planner
Air Quality Partnership
Economic Development District

190 N Independence Mall West, 8th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1520
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