New Hampshire poised to receive $25 million to boost broadband options

By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

New Hampshire is set to receive $25 million from the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, according to a report from The $20.4 billion fund was approved by the FCC in August 2019.

The fund is in Phase 1, which focuses on areas that have no access to broadband and with broadband speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. Phase II will focus on underserved areas.

The pandemic shuttered offices and schools and a good internet connection became more important than ever. New Hampshire was ranked in the top five states for internet access by U.S. News and World Report. About 5 percent of New Hampshire residents live in an area without broadband access at what is deemed acceptable speeds, according to information provided by the White House in their proposal for a new infrastructure bill. Ten percent of New Hampshire households have no internet service at all.

While $25 million may seem like a lot of money to some it breaks down to just $50 per rural resident. And getting service to them may be tough.

“If you drive around the state you’ll come across many areas with less-than-stellar internet service,” said Kristen Cooke, an expert with SatelliteInternet. “New Hampshire has mountains, rivers, lakes, and granite quarries – all of which are tricky places to install fiber optic cable. So the areas without access in New Hampshire are often more expensive to install.”

Four providers won a December 2020 bidding auction to provide broadband to some of the state’s rural areas. New Hampshire also received $194 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden. Some of that funding can be used by cities and counties to expand broadband access.

The president is proposing a new bill that would provide $100 billion of funding to provide broadband to all Americans. Vice President Kamala Harris was in Plymouth recently, where she touted broadband as a necessity and repeated her message in a tweet.

“We brought electricity to rural America in the 1930s, and we can bring broadband to rural America today,” Harris said in her tweet.

State lawmakers are proposing a matching grant initiative that would provide funds to cities that are improving broadband access. The initiative, which is currently not funded, would be overseen by the Office of Strategic Initiatives. The Senate approved the bill and it was referred to the House Finance Committee.

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