The infrastructure lobbying frenzy has only just begun

Broadband expansion

The money frenzy to expand fast Internet service revolves around a small Commerce Department agency called the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He is responsible for overseeing the delivery of about $48 billion, the lion’s share of the Infrastructure Act’s $65 billion broadband pot.

The agency itself is transforming, rapidly increasing its staff and promising a customer service approach to help states make sense of the process. The expansion includes hiring spot people for each state.

Agency officials have begun an informal tour in recent months, traveling to states including Alaska and Louisiana to help explain the coming flood of money.

“It’s going to take each of these states real time to set up their broadband office, to think about how they want to distribute the funds that are coming in,” NTIA Chief Alan Davidson said in a statement. interview this summer after returning from Alaska.

Most of the lobbying attention is focused on the Infrastructure Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, which will send $42.45 billion to states. But it’s still early in the process, and states don’t even know precisely how much money they will receive, even though each will receive at least $100 million.

The exact amount will be determined by Federal Communications Commission maps showing the nation’s broadband coverage, which won’t end for several months in 2023. Even so, all states have signed up to participate this summer.

The telecommunications industry, with titans like AT&T and Comcast as well as smaller rural carriers, has stepped up to let states know they are ready to help — and ready to take a cut of the money.

Heads of state, meanwhile, are trying to get ahead of the rush.

Veneeth Iyengar, who heads Connect LA’s Louisiana office, has maintained a busy schedule of travel and meetings as he develops a five-year spending plan.

“We probably criss-crossed the state two, three times,” Iyengar said, describing a busy schedule of meetings with local and industry officials in October.

Federal officials have acknowledged Louisiana’s tenacity: In August, it was the first state to receive some of the Infrastructure Act’s broadband planning money, just under $3 million to help to propel the small office of Iyengar.

Year two of the Infrastructure Act will bring billions more federal dollars from bridges to broadband, and more lobbying.

“I think overall the rollout has been good,” McFaul said. He added: “Ask me again in two or three years.


POLITICO

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