(The Center Square) – New Hampshire is getting more federal funding to help expand broadband internet access to its rural population.
The U.S. Treasury said it has authorized another $66 million in funding for the state through the federal Capital Projects Fund, which was created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to connect more households to the internet.
“The pandemic exposed longstanding challenges that workers and families face when they don’t have adequate access to the internet, especially those living in rural areas and other unconnected communities," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. "We commend New Hampshire for targeting this funding to places where it is most urgently needed across the state."
New Hampshire is one of four states – others are Virginia, West Virginia and Louisiana – to share in disbursements from the $10 billion fund.
Federal officials said the funding will help connect 24,000 locations – representing about 80% of the regions in New Hampshire that are still lacking high-speed internet.
Members of the state's congressional delegation welcomed the Biden administration's decision to release the funding, saying it will help connect more households to cyberspace.
"Rural Granite State communities deserve every resource possible to address gaps in access to reliable broadband," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement. "Broadband is critical for families, small businesses, schools and hospitals to perform their everyday tasks – it’s unacceptable that such alarming disparities persist."
The money will be distributed by the state's newly created Broadband Connect Program, which will provide taxpayer-funded incentives to internet service providers to expand infrastructure in communities that lack access to high-speed broadband service.
Roughly 5% of New Hampshire residents live in an area without broadband coverage, while 63% live in areas with only one provider, according to data provided by the White House. Those percentages are higher in rural sections of the state.
New Hampshire has pumped $13 million of federal CARES Act funds into broadband projects, connecting nearly 4,500 unserved households, the Sununu administration said.
Overall, the state expects to get $122 million through the ARPA law's federal broadband expansion program.
Still, some groups have raised questions about diverting taxpayer money to companies to build broadband infrastructure that will ultimately be paid for by consumers.
They have also cited a lack of guarantees in the program about the quality and affordability of broadband services and that the program won't require the winning bidder to spend money on construction.
Local governments have voiced concerns that they could be edged out of competition by private companies that are already providing the services.