The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is busy deciphering how to best distribute $48 billion of new broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which the head of the NTIA said is a “once in a generation opportunity” to close the digital divide.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said he has a huge task in front of him to distribute this funding, but it’s an exciting time in which the NTIA “finally” has the resources to address the digital divide.

“We’ve been talking about the digital divide for over 20 years, and we finally have the resources to do something really structural about it,” Davidson said at the Internet Society’s State of the Net 2022 conference.

“Making sure that everybody in America has access to high-speed, affordable Internet service, broadband – that is a big goal and we’re gonna need a lot of help to do it,” Davison added. “But that is really, by far, the big mission right now at NTIA, and people are excited about it. You can really feel it – it’s a different kind of thing.”

As part of the bipartisan infrastructure act, NTIA received $48 billion dollars to support three broadband programs. The three programs are the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, the Middle-Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, and the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program.

Just last week, Davidson said the NTIA also awarded 13 grants, totaling more than $277 million, that will be used to connect more than 133,000 unserved households.

“Access is not enough,” Davidson said. “We can build a wire to somebody’s house, but if they can’t afford to get online, they can afford to get online, but they don’t have the devices to do it, none of it works. So, we really are focused on adoption through all these programs.”

“This is a moment that we need to all be paying attention to, as we haven’t been given the chance,” Davidson said to the State of the Net audience. “This is once in a generation opportunity. So, we really need all of your help.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.