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Colorado will soon receive $100 million to improve broadband service statewide as part of the massive U.S. infrastructure bill passed last year. But first, the state was awarded $5 million to help it plan how exactly it will go about delivering “Internet for All,” the federal program to keep internet speeds fast and costs low.

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is expected to announce Colorado’s grant Thursday, also awarded the state $897,119 to hire staff to build a digital equity plan to provide more affordable service.

“Equitable access to broadband allows Coloradans to receive telehealth services, education and job opportunities,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Colorado also received official approval for a $171 million grant on Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Treasury to invest in broadband service for 18,000 unserved households. As part of the Capital Projects Fund, which had been anticipated for more than a year, the state plans to provide grants through its Advance Colorado Broadband program next year.

The $5 million planning grant is part of BEAD, short for Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program. That’s the $42.5 billion program created after last year’s infrastructure bill passed. Every state was allotted $100 million to improve broadband service. 

The planning awards differ by state and only about a dozen states and territories have received them so far. To date, NTIA has awarded $80 million in planning funds, an NTIA spokeswoman said.

South Dakota scored $2.6 million, Idaho got $4.4 million and Louisiana received $2 million, according to the Internet for All map from the NTIA. The other states and territories announced so far — Nebraska, Utah, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Puerto Rico — all received $5 million. 

Every state that receives BEAD planning funds — all 50 states plus six territories have applied — must put together a 5-year plan on how it will use the money to get internet to those who don’t have it. The planning grants can be used to identify unserved or underserved locations, train employees and create a timeline to complete infrastructure that actually delivers fast internet to communities. 

The Colorado Broadband Office already has a system in place to get started. Last year, it hired Brandy Reitter as its executive director and her team has been busy making sure they apply for all broadband grants and funding available from the federal government. Reitter has said that there’s between $500 million and nearly $1 billion available to Colorado and she plans to focus on fiber-based internet service with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second down and 20 Mbps up.

Reitter wasn’t available for a comment but her boss provided one: 

“This exciting grant builds upon our work to connect over 99% of Coloradans to affordable, high-speed broadband in the next five years,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “We are continuing to save people money on internet, making sure that no matter where you live, you have access to internet you can count on and we look forward to continued partnership with the federal government to achieve our bold goals.” 

This story was updated on Dec. 9, 2022 with new information that Colorado also was officially approved for a $171 million grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury to provide broadband service to unserved households.

Tamara Chuang

Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at coloradosun.com/getww. Contact her at cosun.com/heyww,...