US earmarks $42bn for universal internet access

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 27 Jun 2023

The US government has allocated $42 billion (R779 billion) to make internet access universal in the country.

The US Department of Commerce yesterday announced funding for each state, territory and the District of Columbia for high-speed internet infrastructure deployment through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment programme.

The $42.45 billion grant programme was created in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and administered by the Department of Commerce.

The largest internet funding announcement in history kicks off the three-week administration-wide ‘Investing in America’ tour.

During the tour, president Joe Biden, vice-president Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden, cabinet members and senior administration officials will fan out across the country to highlight investments, jobs and projects made possible by Biden’s economic agenda.

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury – it is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school, access healthcare, and to stay connected with family and friends,” says the White House in a statement.

“Yet, more than 8.5 million households and small businesses are in areas where there is no high-speed internet infrastructure, and millions more struggle with limited or unreliable internet options.”

The grants range from $27 million to over $3.3 billion, with every state receiving a minimum of $107 million.

Nineteen states received allocations of over $1 billion, with the top 10 allocations in Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

With these allocations and other Biden administration investments, all 50 states, DC, and the territories now have the resources to connect every resident and small business to reliable, affordable high-speed internet by 2030, says the US government.

“It’s the biggest investment in high-speed internet ever. Because for today's economy to work for everyone, internet access is just as important as electricity, or water, or other basic services,” says Biden.

South Africa has its own ambitious connectivity initiative, dubbed SA Connect.

Delivering the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ 2023/2024 budget vote in May, communications minister Mondli Gungubele said the State IT Agency will be tasked with rolling out a national broadband project worth at least R6 billion.

Government also plans to deploy close to 10 000 WiFi hotspots to boost connectivity across the country.

In the making since 2013, SA Connect is the national broadband programme initiated by government to ensure universal access to broadband services for all South Africans, initially prioritising rural and underserviced areas.

Due to the magnitude of the project, the state determined it should be implemented in two stages.

In phase one, it aimed to connect schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Service Centres and post offices, in eight rural district municipalities, to broadband services. During this phase, about 970 government facilities have been connected to broadband.

SA Connect phase two was approved by Cabinet in January last year; however, its implementation has faltered.