Arizona releases $ 100 million for broadband Internet expansion

Arizona organizations looking to expand broadband Internet access in their communities can now apply for funding from a $ 100 million tranche of the US bailout.

The federal stimulus package passed by Congress and enacted by President Joe Biden in March prioritized the expansion of broadband internet after the COVID-19 pandemic displaced work, appointments at doctors and the online school, highlighting gaps in access.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey’s office announced that the state will begin receiving applications for grants to improve Internet access for Arizona residents through the Arizona Broadband Development Grants program.

“These investments will be a game-changer for our state, accelerating economic growth and improving the lives of thousands of people who do not have access to a reliable Internet,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, in a press release.

Disparate access

Federal Communications Commission and Microsoft studies have revealed disparate high-speed internet access in Grand Canyon State, rural counties with significantly lower utilization rates. Advocates say physical access and the ability to afford the relatively high cost of broadband continue to create barriers for households hoping to connect.

In addition to grants from Arizona, more money is on its way to bridge the so-called digital divide. Lawmakers in Washington, DC, included $ 65 billion for broadband in sweeping $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure spending plan Biden signed on Monday.

The Arizona Broadband Development Grants program aims to fund the “construction, installation or improvement of broadband infrastructure,” according to the state’s application portal, in the goal of improving access “for the citizens, businesses, health care, public and educational institutions of Arizona. sectors.”

Who can ask for money?

Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on December 10. Tribes, local governments, Internet service providers, nonprofits, and school districts are eligible.

Although Ducey previously linked eligibility for federal stimulus funding to COVID-related protocols, resulting in a reprimand from federal officials, there are no similar restrictions on this funding, according to Keith Watkins, Arizona Commerce Authority senior vice president of rural development.

The money is available to applicants across the state, but the grants recognize the challenges of providing the internet in rural areas, Watkins said.

Projects in Maricopa and Pima counties are eligible for grants of up to $ 5 million. In rural areas, the grant ceiling is $ 10 million per project. Rural areas include Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai and Yuma counties.

“It’s much more expensive to deploy infrastructure in rural areas,” Watkins said. “In the geographic landscape that we have – the hills, the mountains and the rocks – it is about breaking down the cost barriers for the end consumer.”

Those with internet access can find more information and apply for the grant at www.azcommerce.com/broadband/grant-opportunities. You can also call the Arizona Commerce Authority at 602-845-1245.

Contact journalist Stacey Barchenger at [email protected] or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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