Washington one step closer toward $1.2B to broaden internet reach

May 9, 2024, 3:57 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm

Photo: Washington is one step closer to providing wider internet reach across the state....

Washington is one step closer to providing wider internet reach across the state. (Photo courtesy of Comcast)

(Photo courtesy of Comcast)

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has approved Washington’s initial proposal for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The NTIA has also approved the District of Columbia’s and Deleware’s initial proposals.

According to a news release from NTIA, the BEAD program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

The approval means Washington can request access to its allocation of BEAD funding — over $1.2 billion. The state can also start implementing the BEAD program, according to the NTIA.

The BEAD program, as stated by the news release, is a $42.5 billion state grant program through President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law to provide everyone in the country access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet.

ACP funding comes to an end

Last month, the White House pushed Congress to extend funding for The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through the Federal Communication Commission, which allowed a $30 internet discount for those who qualify as low-income.

Background: Affordable internet program may end for millions; these are other local options

However, without funding from Congress, the last fully funded month was April 2024. Over 300,000 Washingtonians will be impacted by the end of the ACP.

“Without action from Congress, this program will sunset this spring and millions of Americans may no longer be able to afford high-speed internet service,” wrote a post by the White House.

On Thursday, U.S. Senator for California Alex Padilla announced that he cosponsored the ACP Extension Act, according to a news release from Padilla. The legislation would provide the ACP with an additional $7 billion so that the program would last through 2024.

There is also a bipartisan amendment, as stated by Padilla’s release, to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2023 being considered in the Senate to provide the ACP with an additional $6 billion.

The BEAD program runs adjacent to the ACP, and as The Patterson Foundation puts it, “The ACP makes BEAD program dollars go farther.”

Next steps for the BEAD program

Although the ACP appears to be coming to an end, the BEAD program will hopefully bridge the digital divide in Washington.

“The BEAD program has played a crucial role in bridging the digital divide and helping us meet our goal to bring internet access to every person across Washington state,” Governor Jay Inslee said in the NTIA news release. “Digital connectivity allows communities to tap into job, health care and education opportunities. I am grateful to the NTIA for approving Washington’s initial proposal and I look forward to the Washington State Broadband Office’s continued success in submitting proposals ensuring more Washingtonians and Tribal nations receive internet access.”

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NTIA said the next steps are for Washington to submit a final proposal that includes how the state will ensure universal coverage with BEAD dollars.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Washington one step closer toward $1.2B to broaden internet reach