The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has released application instructions for the first round of Federal American Rescue Plan Act Broadband Access Grants. The PSC will be awarding up to $100 million for projects that will expand high-speed broadband internet to unserved and underserved locations in the state. Applications for the ARPA Broadband Access Grants are due on July 27. The PSC expects to make award decisions in early fall.
Internet service providers, telecommunications utilities, cooperatives, local governments, and for-profit and non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for grants. Approved projects must be completed by Dec. 31, 2024, and there is no minimum or maximum amount of funding an applicant may request. Funds will be disbursed through a reimbursement process similar to the current process for the state Broadband Expansion Grant Program.
In accordance with the U.S. Treasury guidance for the ARPA funds, eligible broadband projects are expected to:
• Serve unserved or underserved households and businesses, as defined by the U.S. Treasury.
• Be designed to deliver upon project completion internet service that reliably meets or exceeds symmetrical (upload and download) speeds of 100 Mbps (or at least 100 Mbps download and at least 20 Mbps upload, if it is not practicable to deliver the higher upload speeds due to geography, topography, or excessive costs), and be scalable to 100 Mbps upload in the future.
Under U.S. Treasury guidance, the program will:
• Prioritize projects that deliver physical broadband connections that achieve the last mile connection.
• Prioritize applications that integrate affordability options.
• Prioritize investments in fiber optic infrastructure where feasible.
• Avoid investments in locations that have existing agreements to build reliable service of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload by Dec. 31, 2024.
• Prioritize projects providing internet access or digital literacy support to households facing negative economic impacts due to COVID-19.
• Prioritize support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives.
In addition to federal criteria, the PSC will evaluate broadband projects based on applicant capacity, capability, performance, planning, project budget, proposed matching funds, and the proposed service area’s existing broadband service need.
For additional information on Wisconsin’s ARPA Broadband Access Grants, visit the State Broadband Office webpage: psc.wi.gov/Pages/Programs/BroadbandGrants.aspx.