The federal government has allocated $190 million to New Jersey to help fund capital projects, and the state plans to use at least a portion of the money to expand access to broadband internet.
“Removing barriers and expanding high-speed community broadband internet access in underserved rural and urban areas will dramatically close the digital divide, while spurring enhanced educational and economic growth opportunities,” state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said in a news release.
The money is part of the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund included in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) President Joe Biden signed in March. The money is separate from the roughly $6.3 billion the state will receive under the ARP.
“Ensuring the most hard to reach areas of New Jersey have access to high speed Internet is an absolute necessity, especially in light of the last year,” New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said in a news release. “It is crucial that we close the digital divide so our schoolchildren and businesses have the same educational and economic advantages regardless of where they are located.”
Separately, lawmakers are reconsidering legislation, A-850, to create a Broadband Access Study Commission to evaluate broadband access in New Jersey. Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, returning it to lawmakers with suggested changes.
Murphy suggested the commission operate within the Board of Public Utilities. He also asked lawmakers to give state agencies more significant representation on the commission.
“The creation of the Broadband Access Study Commission will examine the logistics of developing community broadband networks in order to deliver high-speed internet access, especially to underserved communities like many in rural areas,” state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, said in a news release. “From a competitive standpoint, closing the digital divide is a must.”
This article was originally posted on New Jersey to use federal dollars to expand broadband internet access