First Steps Taken In Planning For High-Speed Internet Expansion

First Steps Taken In Planning For High-Speed Internet Expansion

(Thom Ball via Shutterstock)

About $5 million in federal grants announced Tuesday will be used to develop a long-term plan to expand access to high-speed Internet and Connecticut could later qualify for as much as $100 million in grants, according to the governor’s office.

State officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont, announced the new grants during a morning press conference with Alan Davidson, an assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

Davidson said the grants announced Tuesday should help Connecticut identify areas where access to affordable broadband Internet is limited.

“We gave the states some homework assignments from the federal government,” Davidson said. “Before we write a $100 million check, we want to see a plan for how you’re going to spend it. That’s what this money is for.”

State officials said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted areas of Connecticut where internet access is limited, complicating efforts to provide needed services such as education and health care on a remote basis.

Lamont, a former cable television company owner, said Internet access infrastructure is lacking in both urban and rural corners of Connecticut.

“Wire infrastructure is very expensive, especially in some of the multi-family units. I think there, you will find in urban areas, they will most likely be left behind. I also know from the cable TV days, if you’re at the end of a long way, it’s just prohibitively expensive pole coax or fiber,” Lamont said. “It’s bipolar in that sense.”

The plan to identify barriers to high-quality Internet access will be carried out over the next year by the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

State Revenue Services Commissioner Mark Boughton, who tasked Lamont with coordinating infrastructure planning, said residents who currently live in an area without access to high-speed Internet should expect the process to take several years.

“Look, it’s a five-year program across the country,” Boughton said. “We’re not going to throw out a very good solution because we might have to wait an extra year to get it done. It will be within our lifetime, that’s for sure. It will be sooner rather than later, but I think three to five years is a safe bet.”

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