The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that Rhode Island received its first “Internet for All” grants for deploying high-speed Internet networks and developing digital skills training programs under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative. Rhode Island is receiving $5,506,100.07 in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden, to plan for the deployment and adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable high-speed Internet throughout the state.
“The funding for Rhode Island today is the first step to ensuring affordable high-speed Internet is available to every resident,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “This money will allow the state to conduct the important planning and digital equity work vital to making this program a success. I thank Governor McKee, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline for their commitment to connecting Rhode Island and bridging the digital divide.”
Secretary Raimondo announced the planning grants at the Providence Public Library alongside Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, and Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner.
“Expanding and improving internet access helps expand opportunity. This is a smart investment in upgrading the state’s digital infrastructure,” said Senator Jack Reed. “This funding will advance a coordinated strategy to get all Rhode Islanders connected to high-speed, reliable, affordable broadband service and close the digital divide.”
“Reliable broadband connects Rhode Islanders to work, school, and other aspects of daily life,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “This federal funding will allow Rhode Island to create a framework that equitably closes the digital divide across the state.”
“During the pandemic, households had increased reliance on broadband connections as access became essential for employment, education and daily activities,” said Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee. “We thank the Biden Administration for this funding as it will help us in our mission to tackle barriers to connectivity, ensuring Rhode Islanders have better access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet and the valuable resources and information it provides.”
“The 21st century economy will not be fully accessible until every American has access to high-speed, reliable, affordable internet,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “With shopping, banking, education, breaking news, and many government programs accessible online, internet access must no longer be considered a privilege for those who can afford it. I’m proud that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is bringing affordable broadband to the communities who need it most.”
“The COVID pandemic laid bare just how deep the digital divide is – and the need for action to address these inequities,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “Those with broadband access were able to work, shop for necessities like food and hygiene and safety products, and attend school from home, while those without broadband simply could not, and were forced to leave home to find connectivity. Your zip code should not determine your ability to access high speed, reliable internet. Broadband is not an indulgence, and this investment will enable us to start treating it like the utility that it is.”
“Equitable access to affordable, high-quality, high-speed internet is not only essential to economic growth, it is a fundamental necessity to living and working in today’s society,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner. “We thank President Biden’s Administration, Secretary Raimondo, our state’s federal delegation, and our many partners across Rhode Island. We are eager to swiftly and strategically put this grant funding to good use.”
All 50 U.S. states and six territories applied for planning grant funding for the Internet for All initiative’s Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity Act program. Grant awards for all 56 eligible entities will be announced on a rolling basis.
About Rhode Island’s Planning Grants
Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program
The BEAD Program provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed Internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs.
Rhode Island will receive $5 million to fund various activities including:
- Identification of unserved and underserved locations;
- Capacity-building and employee training of the state broadband office;
- Asset mapping across Rhode Island to catalog high-speed Internet adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment;
- Support for the Rhode Island Broadband Development Program, including a 5-year action plan and enhancing a previous statewide assessment of infrastructure and Internet service availability;
- Refining state goals, principles, priorities and strategies for digital equity;
- Reaching more than 3,000 people to better understand barriers to Internet access, affordability, adoption, digital literacy, online privacy and cybersecurity, and access to digital opportunities and devices.