The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (COVID Relief bill)

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The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021 includes several provisions that address broadband deployment, digital inclusion, and broadband affordability through direct appropriations to federal agencies. This means the funding will not come directly to the state, so Colorado’s benefit from these nationally competitive programs will depend on applications from qualifying consumers, internet service providers, or local and state agencies. The bill was enacted on Dec. 27, 2020, so there are still many aspects and details that the funded agencies have not  ironed out. Here’s what we know so far.

The key broadband-related provisions in the bill include the following:

  • USDA Broadband Programs
    • $635 million for the USDA Reconnect Broadband Loan & Grant Program.
      Update 2/24/21: The $635 million appropriated to the USDA for the ReConnect Program will be used to award the agency’s 3rd Round of funding. The application window is expected to open in late summer, following a 60-day comment cycle requesting comment on new agency guidelines.
    • $60 million for the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program.
      Update 2/24/21: The application window for the $57 million appropriation ($3 million was earmarked for another program) for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program funding window is expected to open in March 2021.
    • $35 million for the USDA Community Connect Broadband Grant Program.
      Update 2/24/21: The $35 million appropriated for the Community Connect Grant Program will be directed to the 2021 funding year, the application window opened Sept. 24, 2020 and closed Dec. 23. The USDA received more than $146 million in funding requests and expects to finalize awards in the summer of 2021.
  • FCC Broadband Programs
    • $98 million to implement the Broadband DATA Act to improve broadband mapping accuracy and accountability.
      Update 2/24/21: Issued an Order to collect more precise broadband mapping data and established the Broadband Data Task Force
    • $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, under which eligible households may receive a discount off the cost of broadband service (up to $50 monthly benefit per eligible household and up to $75 on tribal lands).
      Update 2/24/21: Directed the USAC to administer the $3.2 Billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, leveraging the organization’s LifeLine expertise to process eligibility verifications for customers and reimbursements for providers of the program.
    • $250 million for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
    • $1.9 billion to “Rip and Replace” certain unsecure equipment as directed by recent FCC regulations.
      Update 2/24/21: Released a Notice implementing the $1.9 billion dollar “Rip and Replace” program to protect the integrity of the nation’s communications networks consistent with the legislation.
  • NTIA Broadband Programs
    • Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Grants: $300 million was appropriated to implement a broadband infrastructure deployment grant program benefiting rural areas, prioritizing applications delivering 100/20 Mbps or better broadband service in areas without access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service.
      Update 2/24/21: We expect to see the notice of available funding in early March, applicants will have 90 days to apply for funding.
    • Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program: $285 million was appropriated to create the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the NTIA, focusing on access and adoption for minority communities.
    • Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grants: $1 billion to expand access and adoption of broadband on tribal lands.
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