Raimondo is traveling to Durham, North Carolina. She'll announce that governors can send their letters of intent to receive the broadband money, which comes from three programs totaling $45 billion. Each state would then get $5 million to help it consult with residents and write its plan.
The Commerce Department recognizes that internet needs vary by state. The money could be used to lay fiber optic cable, build out Wi-Fi hotspots or even reduce monthly charges in places where price is the main challenge. After the administration's announcement Monday that it would provide a $30 monthly subsidy to low-income households, Raimondo noted that states could use the additional money from these programs to make the service free to some users.
The allocations would also be influenced by the Federal Communications Commission this fall releasing new maps that detail where people lack internet service or are underserved. Governors and other leaders would then have six months to use this data to shape their final applications. States and eligible areas are guaranteed a minimum of $100 million, though the average payment would be closer to $800 million, according to rough estimates from the Commerce Department.
The goal is to have states lay out a five-year timeline to provide full internet access, while ensuring affordable internet access and promoting competition among providers. The federal government has not defined what qualifies as affordable, since that could be different around the country based on cost of living.
The commerce secretary said she seen the impact that universal internet availability could have on people in her travels.
She said she spoke to a widower in rural South Carolina whose late wife could only see a doctor regularly through telehealth, but they lacked a high-speed connection. Raimondo talked to a college student in Atlanta with a full-time job who had to drive back to campus for the internet to do her homework, leaving the student so exhausted that she fell asleep at the wheel and got into two auto crashes.
“You close the digital divide and close the opportunity divide," Raimondo said, “and we actually fulfill the American promise of giving everybody a shot at a good job, an education and health care.”