WASHINGTON — Today, global tech trade association ITI offered recommendations to the Biden Administration to help advance the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Acting Administrator Evelyn Remaley, ITI called for specific actions to support efforts to close the digital divide and strengthen U.S. broadband infrastructure across all communities.
“Digital infrastructure forms the foundation that allows Americans to realize the economic and social benefits that flow from a well-connected online economy, including access to virtual healthcare services, online education, small business development resources, and remote working opportunities, among others,” ITI wrote in its letter. “Following 20 months of the global pandemic, little doubt remains regarding the importance of Internet connectivity for nearly all areas of life and across all sectors of the economy. By making these significant investments in digital infrastructure, the U.S. government has demonstrated an eagerness to accelerate American leadership in critical technologies for the future to spur economic growth and job creation, incentivize domestic investment, and meet the current and future needs of all Americans.”
ITI’s recommendations to the NTIA included:
Give states and territories the flexibility to incorporate any combination of technology that can meet the performance requirements that the IIJA and NTIA regulations specify. Whether building out to unserved or underserved communities, or bridging needed middle mile connections, NTIA should make clear that a range of innovative technologies can be included in applications for grants funding commercial ICT options. This flexibility should also facilitate projects for states seeking to demonstrate new use cases and innovative solutions to connect individuals and small businesses from across the country to the digital economy.
NTIA should work closely with industry and consumer advocates throughout the process of crafting the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and meeting other procedural benchmarks in order to facilitate a timely and effective flow of funding. While current supply chain challenges may have a practical bearing on the speed with which funded networks can be deployed, Americans in all areas of the country are eagerly awaiting the promise of better access through projects funded under the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. We encourage NTIA to establish timely interim benchmarks geared toward distribution of funding to awardees as soon as practicable.
Ensure that broadband projects can easily incorporate and benefit from commercial information and communications technologies (ICT). Due to domestic content requirements in the law, projects could face unnecessary delays and be unable to access best-in-class, global technology. ITI is strongly urging Congress to take legislative action and the Commerce Department to ensure this shortcoming is addressed to that the infrastructure funding can be distributed to eligible entities as effectively and efficiently as possible, with the widest possible benefits fully realized.
Consult with industry and federal stakeholders, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as the Notice of Funding Opportunity is drafted. Along with historic investments in buildout, the IIJA is also facilitating significant investments in security that could be coupled with state broadband plans to ensure that newly deployed networks are also protected against attacks. We expect that States will simultaneously be developing broadband and digital inclusion plans alongside cybersecurity plans as they also compete for security and resiliency funding from other federal agencies pursuant to the IIJA.
Ensure use of Digital Equity Capacity Grants funding can occur alongside deployment plans and further prioritize state plans that fund digital literacy efforts and support access to connected devices. Digital Equity Capacity Grants are critical for ensuring all Americans, and especially vulnerable populations such as low-income families and seniors, have the means, skills, and devices necessary to securely access broadband services. We urge NTIA to meet the statutory deadline for issuing the NOFO within 180 days so that planning for the use of this funding can occur alongside deployment plans.
Read the full letter here.