Alan Davidson, the Commerce Department official overseeing the disbursement of $42 billion in federal funds for building out broadband infrastructure, told Protocol the “starting gun” of the program will go off May 16, when states can officially start declaring they want the money.
The five-year plans that states are supposed to develop next, though, could hit immediate roadblocks. Those plans are dependent on identifying which areas are unserved and underserved by broadband, as measured on Federal Communications Commission maps that have been delayed for years.
“That timeline depends quite a bit on when the FCC maps are in shape to to be available for that purpose,” Davidson, the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, told Protocol during a Thursday event on the infrastructure bill’s rollout.
The states won’t be totally on their own, Davidson said: The NTIA has “some great maps” available to compensate for the notoriously insufficient ones the FCC currently makes available. Many states have also done their own mapping, and communities often have a robust sense of local broadband coverage, he said.
“Our hope is that — working with local communities, working with the mapping data that’s available — states can begin their planning,” Davidson said. “Then when we have the final maps, we’ll be able to make those final determinations about allocations and ultimately where to deploy.”
It seems like an unusual way to start.