By Christian Wade | The Center Square
Broadband access in New Hampshire could be expanded under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Sununu that diverts money to local governments to help connect more of its citizenry to the Internet.
The new law, which cleared the state Legislature with bipartisan support, creates the Broadband Matching Grant Fund program which will be funded with state appropriations, gifts, grants, donations, and available federal funds. Grants will be awarded to projects to expand broadband coverage.
In a statement, Sununu boasted that New Hampshire was one of the first states to use federal CAREs Act money to expand broadband internet access during the pandemic and said he expects the new program to also be successful in connecting more people to cyberspace.
“New Hampshire’s program was wildly successful – bringing together the state, private, and municipal partners – all to get the job done and connect our rural communities in a sustainable way,” he said in a statement.
During the pandemic, the state pumped $13 million of CARES Act funds into broadband projects, connecting nearly 4,500 previously unserved households, the Sununu administration said.
Similar language creating the matching grant program was also included in the two-year $13.5 billion state budget Sununu signed recently.
New Hampshire could also be getting federal money to expand broadband access from President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion proposed jobs and infrastructure plan.
The jobs plan, which is pending before Congress, would invest $65 billion on high-speed broadband access to connect remote communities to the Internet.
About 5% of New Hampshire residents live in areas with minimal broadband service, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
About 63% of Granite Staters live in areas with only one Internet service provider, the White House said.