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People and businesses in Arizona that don’t have access to reliable high-speed internet will soon be getting help in the form of $993 million from the federal government that aims to ensure every American has access to broadband.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Monday announced the award to help bring fast, affordable internet to the 177,325 homes and businesses in the Grand Canyon State that currently lack access.
A dearth of affordable high-speed internet is a problem in many rural areas of Arizona, including in tribal communities.
“High-speed internet access is becoming a greater need throughout all tribal communities in the state of Arizona,” Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley said in a statement. “The funding will be very beneficial for first responders, students, businesses, and many others on the Navajo Nation. We look forward to working with Governor Hobbs and the state agencies to ensure that tribal nations maximize the benefits of the NTIA funding.”
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The award is part of President Joe Biden’s “Internet for All” initiative, with a total of $42.5 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program apportioned to each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
“Access to reliable internet is critical to creating equal opportunities for all Arizonans,” Gov. Katie Hobbs said in a written statement. “For too long, millions of Arizonans have lacked this access, preventing them from attaining good paying jobs, quality education, and even basic healthcare services. With this funding, my Administration will work with local, Tribal, and industry partners to connect every Arizonan, in every community, across the state and build an Arizona that works for everyone.”
Mignonne Hollis, executive director of the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation called the nearly $1 billion going to Arizona a “game changer.”
“This is especially so in rural areas, where access to reliable high-speed is one of the biggest impediments to economic development, access to telehealth, and quality of life,” she said in a statement.
The Arizona State Broadband Office began planning for deployment of the broadband award in December, submitting 60,000 successful challenges to the Federal Communications Commission broadband maps to make sure all Arizona households who lacked affordable high speed internet access were accounted for in the BEAD formula funding.
The Broadband Office and the Arizona Commerce Authority plan to administer the deployment of the BEAD funds over the next five years, with the goal of giving all Arizonans access to broadband.
High speed internet not only contributes to a growing and thriving economy, but is also essential to public safety, Superior Mayor Mila Besich said in a statement.
“This money will provide opportunities for cities and towns to support broadband availability and adoption in their communities that will help close the digital divide and ensure rural, suburban, and urban communities have equal opportunity to access and afford high-speed internet,” René Guillen, deputy director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said. “In conversations with mayors and city and town managers across the state, whether it’s for economic development, educational purposes, or just personal access, the need for high-speed internet access has been a common refrain. We look forward to collaborating with our state and federal partners on putting this money to good use to benefit our residents.”
Independent U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema led negotiations for the legislation that made the broadband award money available, along with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
“While writing and negotiating my bipartisan infrastructure law I ensured we made the strongest broadband investment in Arizona’s history — making internet more accessible and affordable for Arizonans in all corners of our state. I’ll continue delivering lasting results for Arizona,” Sinema said in a statement.
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