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Delaware's proposal to expand internet access approved by feds, more funding to come

Courtesy of New Castle County

Delaware will soon have access to over $107 million federal dollars to expand the reach of high-speed internet in the First State.

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration approved the District of Columbia, Delaware and Washington state’s initial proposals for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

This approval enables Delaware to request access to funding and start implementing its plan. The BEAD program is a $42.45 billion state grant program authorized by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used on high-speed Internet adoption, training, and workforce development efforts, among other eligible uses.

The state already allotted $33 million in ARPA funds to expand broadband. Delaware Broadband Office Executive Director Roddy Flynn says they are wrapping up that program which will connect about an additional 6,700 homes to broadband.

This new BEAD program money will connect another six to seven thousand homes, noting the price tag is much higher than the homes connected with ARPA funds.

“These last households, there is a reason they are not served by internet yet.," Fynn says. "They are very remote. And we are hoping that we will have a fiber connection to every one of these homes, that we will not need to use any sort of wireless solution. But that’s pretty expensive, going a mile down the road.”

Flynn is confident this funding will allow Delaware to become the first state to give all residents access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

“Also, most of the folks in Delaware that we find who don’t have access to internet in 2024 tend to be more marginalized, tend to be more low-income," Flynn says. "And so we need to make sure this investment is going to work for the population that we are trying to reach.”

Flynn says they are requiring providers to meet a $30 a month price point for addresses in the BEAD program. He adds since the federal Affordable Connectivity program has lapsed and providers can’t get access to supplemental funds, they can request a waiver to charge up to $65, if they can prove market pressure is such that they can’t operate while only offering $30 a month, and that the higher price still affordable for their customer.

Flynn also says he has heard a lot of support from healthcare providers who have trouble reaching rural populations. But with expanded access to the internet, tele-health becomes an option.

“That kind of high-speed internet is going to be potentially lifesaving for folks in these rural areas," Flynn says.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.