February 02, 2022

Manchin Questions Commerce Secretary Raimondo On Broadband Expansion Through Bipartisan Infrastructure Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on the implementation of the $65 billion for broadband expansion efforts included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Senator Manchin said in part, “It’s said that there are at least 258,000 West Virginians without broadband access. But we've had estimates as high as 900,000 West Virginians, which is 50% of our population, that do not have dependable connectivity. So what steps are you taking in the short term to make sure that these needs are going to be met? And how can I help?”
Senator Manchin successfully fought to ensure the incorrect broadband coverage maps that determine federal funding are corrected before this funding is distributed to states. According to BroadbandNow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has overestimated broadband coverage in West Virginia more than any other state in the nation. As a result of Senator Manchin’s efforts, IIJA will be the first broadband funding based on the updated maps. Senator Manchin questioned Secretary Raimondo on the coordination between the Commerce Department and the FCC on correcting the coverage maps and distributing these funds in a timely manner.
“Rural America was getting left behind, specifically rural West Virginia and Appalachia. So we put some things in this piece of legislation as we were working on the bipartisan infrastructure bill to make sure that we wouldn't get left behind this time…We've been speaking and trying to make sure the FCC has the necessary funds and also the resources and help with the urgency that these maps need to be done. Because we can't do a thing without that,” Senator Manchin continued.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) also includes Senator Manchin’s formula which distributes funds based on each state’s proportion of unserved areas and a 10% set aside for additional assistance to states with higher costs of deployment like West Virginia. While this funding will be determined by the FCC’s updated broadband coverage maps, it is estimated that West Virginia will receive around $600 million for broadband deployment alone. Nearly $48 billion of the $65 billion included for broadband in IIJA will be implemented by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and information Administration (NTIA). Through NTIA, the Commerce Department will coordinate with the FCC to implement this funding and close the digital divide.
Video of Senator Manchin’s questions during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing can be found here.