States eager to expand broadband, wary of CARES Act deadline

Iowa News

A Consolidated Communications technician works on a line used to provide broadband internet service in a rural area on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Stowe, Vt. Vermont officials are working to expand internet service using federal pandemic relief funds. But they are scrambling because the projects, which can frequently take years to plan and build, must be done by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

(AP/KCAU) – Fearful of losing federal pandemic dollars, officials from states across the country are rushing to finish projects aimed at expanding broadband internet into underserved areas by the end of the year.

To comply with the current CARES Act rules, states must have the broadband projects, which can typically take months if not years of planning and construction, up and running by December 30. 

With broadband, the goal is to expand the service so it would be available to students studying from home during the pandemic, people who need to use broadband for telehealth reasons, and people working remotely from home.

In Vermont, the Legislature cut back on what lawmakers would have liked to allocate from $100 million to less than $20 million because they didn’t believe they could have spent the larger amount on time, despite the need.

A Consolidated Communications technician works on a line used to provide broadband internet service in a rural area on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Stowe, Vt. Vermont officials are working to expand internet service using federal pandemic relief funds. But they are scrambling because the projects, which can frequently take years to plan and build, must be done by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds recently authorized $50,000,000 from the CARES Act to address the increased need for internet connectivity in the state.  Due to CARES Act deadlines, the application window closes August 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.  Communication service providers can find more information about this opportunity here.

Other states dealing with this issue include Alabama and New Hampshire.

The end-of-the-year rules don’t just apply to broadband. Housing, and many business projects, are other sectors that traditionally require long lead times, also must be finished by the end of the year.

Efforts are underway in Congress to provide greater flexibility in the funding.

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