The Colorado Broadband Office announced Tuesday it’s now taking applications for a $162 million grant program funded by a federal pandemic relief program.
The Advance Colorado Broadband program, which is funded through the 2021 American Rescue Plan’s Capital Project Fund, is open to municipalities, counties, special districts, tribes, co-operatives, internet service providers and other entities planning broadband infrastructure projects in areas where a majority of population lacks high-speed internet access.
The Capital Project Fund, which is managed by the U.S. Treasury, included $10 billion for states, territories and tribal governments to spend on projects related to work, education and health care as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For broadband projects, the Treasury has allowed the fund to be used to connect homes, businesses, educational institutions, health care facilities and other entities that lack reliable internet service reaching download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second.
According to its program information, the Colorado Broadband Office will prioritize applications for projects building last-mile fiber. The program will also consider both wireline and fixed wireless technologies.
“The pandemic highlighted a significant gap in internet access in Colorado, as well as the country. Students were meeting in parking lots to go school, many residents lost work, businesses suffered and thousands lost access to critical healthcare because they did not have internet,” Brandy Reitter, executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office, said in a news release. “CPF money will help ensure Coloradans are never again left behind.”
The grant announcement comes a month after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation rolling back a 2005 law that limited local governments’ ability to build their own broadband networks. In addition to the American Rescue Plan funds, the state expects to receive several hundred million dollars from the Commerce Department’s Broadband, Equity, Accessibility and Deployment program.
The Colorado Broadband Office said it will accept applications for the Advance Colorado Broadband program through Aug. 21 and notify awardees in November.