On December 20th, 2022, residents and community leaders gathered at the Trenton Public Library to celebrate the announcement of expanded broadband access in the Garden State. Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, $65 billion in funding was approved so communities across the United States can access reliable and affordable high-speed internet. Much of this investment will stay here in New Jersey to help provide low-cost, high-speed Internet service and address disparities to help close the digital divide.
In discussing the bill’s impact on Trenton, Mayor Reed Gusciora stated, “Our administration has taken steps to assure that all schools have high-speed Internet access, and support from our state and federal partners will allow us to close the inequities that exist in technology access. We’re proud in Trenton to be beneficiaries of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes a historic $65 billion initiative.”
Mark Colon, Director of Public Engagement for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, expanded on the exciting new improvements coming to the Garden State. “We’re all here today because we’ve come to recognize the transformative power of high-speed internet. When President Biden took office, he made an important promise to connect every American with affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, and once and for all close the nation’s digital divide.”
He noted, “Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, NFIA now has nearly 50 billion dollars in grant funding to make good on President Biden’s promise. We’re calling this the Internet for All initiative. Under the Internet for All initiative, New Jersey will receive a minimum of $100 million to ensure that every New Jersey home and business have high-speed internet and the digital skills New Jerseyans need to use that technology. Today, NTIA and the Biden administration are excited to announce that New Jersey will receive an initial grant of $6 million to create the plan for the deployment and adoption of high-speed internet all across the state.”
Taryn Boland, Chief of Staff at the NJ Board of Public Utilities, discussed how these developments would be implemented. “The Commission has been meeting for several months, and next year, we will release a report on how we can ensure equitable access to broadband everywhere. Many of us here today take broadband for granted – when we turn on our phones or wi-fi on our laptops, or when our children attended school during the pandemic, it just turns on. We take it for granted, but we know we can’t live without it.”
Boland continued to discuss the digital divide, noting, “What we haven’t thought about enough, especially during the pandemic, is the number of our fellow New Jersey residents who don’t have access to broadband. For residents of remote areas of the state where broadband infrastructure is lacking, to low-and-moderate income communities where good, high-speed internet is not affordable for everyone, there are too many New Jerseyans who do not have access to this critical service.” In discussing how these disparities will be addressed, Boland noted, “These initial grants will conduct planning, research, and the development of a statewide digital equity plan, in addition to technical assistance plans. We are very grateful to the Biden-Harris administration for their commitment to this issue and ensuring digital equity for all.”
The announcements closed with remarks from Michael Strom, Chair of the Digital Inclusion Practitioners of New Jersey (DIP-NJ) and Workforce Development Coordinator for the Jersey City Housing Authority. “We understand that true digital inclusion means sustainable access to high-speed, affordable, capable devices for 21st-century requirements and the extensive training needed to safely and productively use these tools and connect to further personal and professional opportunities. It is for this reason that DIP-NJ continues to serve as the de facto nexus for New Jersey digital inclusion advocates, and why we are honored here today to represent stakeholder communities as this state is about to embark on a bold digital connectivity endeavor.”
The expansion of broadband access could not come at a more critical time – throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, access to reliable internet has been essential for work, school, and more. Thankfully, this new wave of investments and improvements will fundamentally improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans all across the Garden State. As an underserved community, Trenton stands to benefit immensely from these developments, and we look forward to seeing how these initiatives will change lives throughout our communities.
For more information on the Biden-Harris Administration’s high-speed Internet service programs, please visit InternetforAll.gov.