President Biden today signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill which is expected to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to Washington state for broadband, roads, bridges, the electrical grid, commuter rail and zero emission buses and ferries among other things.
Central to the bipartisan bill, signed during a ceremony on the White House lawn, is a significant investment in broadband equity, the push to improve high-speed internet access to areas in the country lacking sufficient bandwidth for school or work.
The White House estimated that 8.5% of Washington state residents lacked even minimal broadband infrastructure. A similar percentage lives in areas with broadband but cannot afford it. The federal funding could go toward both. The state will receive a minimum of $100 million toward those goals but likely will receive much more, perhaps in the neighborhood of $700 million to $1 billion.
Washington Sen. Patty Murray said the money is sorely needed.
“Washington state families will see a difference directly as more goods get from our ports to store shelves, and people from every part of our state find good-paying jobs to rebuild our infrastructure — from repairing our bridges to replacing lead pipes, and everything in between,” Murray said in a statement.
“Over time, communities will see this bill in action as families in the Yakima Valley finally get connected to high-speed internet, as Sound Transit expands light rail options in Puget Sound, as electric vehicle charging stations are built across our state, and so much more.”
Murray’s office said the infrastructure bill also includes Murray’s Clean School Bus Act which provides federal grants to help transition the nation’s diesel school buses to zero emission. Additionally the bill contains:
- $5 billion in zero emission and clean buses and $2.5 billion for electric ferries;
- $17 Billion for port modernization;
- $71 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state;
- $89 million to Protect the Puget Sound.
The pandemic revealed internet access was lacking or nonexistent for thousands of students across the state. In response, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law legislation that allows Washington municipalities to offer direct-to-consumer broadband service, an effort to allow for broadband service to spread to low-profit areas avoided by private internet companies.
According to White House data, 1,409,000 or 19% of people in Washington will be eligible for the bill’s Affordability Connectivity Benefit to help low-income families afford internet access.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee praised the the measure.
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