New Funding Will Connect Homes, Schools, Libraries, Small Businesses And More
PHOENIX — Governor Ducey today announced a $100 million commitment to expand high-speed broadband to unserved or underserved areas of the state, making it one of the single largest broadband investments in state history.
The program, known as the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program, will enable local communities to construct or improve broadband infrastructure that connects Arizonans in their homes and serves schools, libraries, small businesses, public safety operations and more. Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.
In his 2021 State of the State address and executive budget proposal, Governor Ducey called for renewed efforts to expand broadband access.
“In today’s digitally connected world, ensuring access to high-speed internet is key to growing opportunity,” said Governor Ducey. “Today’s historic investment will build on the progress of recent years to get even more schools, businesses, tribal communities and homes connected, opening up more opportunities for services like telemedicine and digital learning. I am grateful to our legislative leaders, especially President Karen Fann, Speaker Rusty Bowers and Representative Joanne Osborne, for making broadband a priority this past session. By investing in broadband access, we are investing in our future and making it possible for all Arizonans to thrive.”
Grants will serve both rural and urban parts of the state, with eligible applicants to include broadband service providers, local governments, Native American tribes, schools, libraries and more.
“These investments will be a gamechanger for our state, accelerating economic growth and improving the lives of thousands who lack access to reliable internet,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “Through the investments of the last few years, Arizona has already shown what a difference expanding broadband access can make. We are grateful to Governor Ducey for allocating these dollars and proud to partner on this program.”
Arizona in 2019 allocated $3 million for Rural Broadband Development Grants authorized in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The funding helped enhance broadband infrastructure and increase download speeds for communities of Bullhead City, Page and Payson, while funding planning grants in other parts of the state.
“We have prioritized a true need for Arizona — broadband,” said Representative Joanne Osborne of LD 13. “Telehealth, education and economic development all depend on a strong broadband connection. Investments in broadband lead to safer highways, connected communities and healthier Arizonans. Governor Ducey continues to prioritize broadband expansion as our state grows, with a strong focus on rural Arizona. Arizona is a state of great opportunity and broadband will be an integral part of its success. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor, broadband experts and rural community members on this important issue.”
In May, Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2596, sponsored by Representative Regina Cobb, enabling private broadband providers to install, operate and maintain telecommunications equipment within the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) rights-of-way.
“This investment provides the educational and economic development opportunities Arizona students and communities deserve,” said Wes Brownfield, Executive Director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association (ARSA) and Board Member of The Final Mile Project. “With access to dependable high-speed internet, our rural students can enjoy the virtual learning opportunities that their schools, our state and the world offer. This will ensure our rural students and their communities have the capacity to finally bridge the digital divide.”
“It’s vitally important that hospitals and patients have access to reliable and high-quality broadband services. This connectivity is even more important as care delivery models increasingly incorporate telehealth,” said Ann-Marie Alameddin, President and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “We are grateful to Governor Ducey for his leadership and support on this issue.”
Arizona has taken significant steps in recent years to expand broadband access. Recent actions include:
Establishing a statewide Broadband Office housed at the ACA to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure;
Allocating $3 million to improve rural broadband access;
Investing in “Smart Highway Corridors” to install fiber-optic conduit along Arizona highways; and
Expanding access to telemedicine while reimbursement rates at AHCCCS for telehealth services.
Grant applications must be received by December 10, 2021 at 5:00 p.m., MST.
To find out more about the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program, visit the Arizona Commerce Authority’s broadband website.