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Rural broadband gets $600M in proposed Biden budget

President Biden on Monday released a proposed $5.23 trillion budget for 2023, including over $600 million for additional broadband funding through the USDA's ReConnect program.

"The President is committed to ensuring that every American has access to broadband, which would not only strengthen rural economies, but also create high-paying union jobs installing broadband," reads the FY 2023 budget document.

In addition to $600 million for ReConnect – which provides grants and low-interest loans to cover costs associated with delivering broadband in eligible rural areas – the budget includes $25 million for rural telecommunications cooperatives to refinance their Rural Utilities Services loan debt and upgrade their networks.

The Senate Budgetary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 30, to begin debate on President Biden's proposed budget.   (Source: The White House via Flickr)
The Senate Budgetary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 30, to begin debate on President Biden's proposed budget.
(Source: The White House via Flickr)

The president's budget – as Biden put it on Monday – is a "statement of values." To that end, the proposals ultimately need the approval of Congress, which will start debating the document this week. Whether the final budget retains Biden's proposed broadband funding remains to be seen.

Regardless, the proposed budget is a further demonstration of the administration's commitment to expanding broadband access in the US. The new request for funds comes as the federal government is finalizing rules covering roughly $48 billion in broadband grant programs funded by the administration's $2 trillion infrastructure law (which contains $65 billion for broadband in total).

In addition to that funding, broadband also got billions in both the American Rescue Plan and Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana and several others are currently using to fund fiber deployments and other broadband projects through state grants.

On Monday afternoon, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) released a statement in support of the president's budget.

"The White House's proposed budget makes important strides to get all Americans access to the Internet," said Eric Slee, director of government affairs for WISPA. "We stand ready to work with the Administration so that community-based internet providers play an even greater role in deploying reliable, robust and evolutionary broadband – through fiber, fixed wireless or other technologies – to those who do not have it."

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— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast.

A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.

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