Commerce Secretary Raimondo Emphasizes Affordability, Fiber in Infrastructure Bill Media Brief: Broadband Breakfast
ANNAPOLIS, December 2, 2021 – Governors from selected states met in Annapolis, Maryland to discuss how they would use the billions in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The National Governor’s Association’s three-day infrastructure summit, much of which has been closed to media, hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday. The panel included the Democratic Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards, Democratic Governor of Guam Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Republican Governor of Maryland Larry hogan, and Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania Tom wolf.
Edwards said once Louisiana receives money from the infrastructure bill – enacted in mid-November that would provide a minimum of $ 100 million to states – the broadband changes would be drastic. . “We can answer [access and the digital divide] to a degree that was not possible before.
“If there is a house or a business [in Louisiana] without high speed internet by 2029, it’s because they don’t want it, ”said Edwards. He explained that because Louisiana identified shortcomings in its broadband infrastructure and began laying the groundwork for improving it years ago, the state is better equipped to take advantage of the funding that will come with it. ‘IIJA.
In early 2020, Edwards announced its “Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana” plan which outlined priority areas of coverage, guiding principles and goals for the state’s approach to improving broadband connectivity. The national broadband office, Connect LA, was created to help put the plan into action.
As part of the state’s initiative to bridge the digital divide, the Edwards administration created the Broadband Opportunities Program for Louisiana Unserved Municipalities, or OKRA, to help underserved and unserved areas apply for federal funding for broadband projects.
Need for private investment
Wolf highlighted the steps Pennsylvania is taking to ensure funds are not wasted. “[The IIJA] is not an infinite amount of money and it is not at all what our engineers say they need, ”he said. To make the most of the funding they receive, Wolf recommended that states create centralized infrastructure banks to allocate money only to approved projects and avoid literally “bridges to nowhere”. as figuratively.
“Private investment is also critically important,” Hogan said. Indeed, all of the governors sharing the stage encouraged states to explore public-private efforts. Edwards said he hopes the IIJA does not tie the hands of states, preventing states from using such models. “We need an approach that has the flexibility to work for us,” he said. “I hope the rules aren’t written in a way that requires us to do all of this on our own [without private investment]. “
The purpose of this gathering is to enable governors, their secretaries and their staff to meet, collaborate and share experiences to help states partner in regional infrastructure projects, prioritize projects and to learn how to obtain the necessary resources from the federal government to carry out the said projects.
Hogan gave the opening speech and participated in some of the events of Day One. Bipartism was one of the focal points of the summit, and Hogan hammered it in during his opening speech.
“Much of the conventional wisdom was that a federal infrastructure bill could not be bipartisan,” he said. Hogan said the collaborative work of governors at state and regional levels has proven this “wisdom” to be false, stating that “the nation’s governors will continue to lead the way.”
While waiting for the federal government
Hogan said that while the IIJA money will be “transformational,” there are still a considerable number of unknowns. “We are still awaiting advice from the federal government,” he said. As it stands, he said there is no specific timeline for when funds will be distributed or whether some funds will have rigid and unknown requirements that could delay the process. “The devil is in the details,” Hogan said.
“We will find a way to use every penny we get,” he added, but said it was still not clear how much money the state would get or, where it could be used and when the state gets it.
Hogan said Maryland’s efforts would be focused on repairing and upgrading infrastructure, while devising new ways to streamline the deployment of future projects.
The NGA summit runs through December 2 and covers topics such as broadband, freight transportation, green infrastructure and supply chain issues.