Broadband the Basis for Interagency Information Sharing
The problem, according to four members of Congress, is that there are not enough charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), especially in rural areas and other “underserved” communities. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) allocates funds to address the problem, including $5 billion for a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. A major part of the solution, the elected officials say, is coordination with broadband internet funding programs.
“In light of the national electric vehicle charging network’s connectivity requirements, the persistent digital divide and EV charging infrastructure disparities across the nation, we encourage you to coordinate IIJA broadband and EV charging infrastructure efforts to encourage co-location of [charging stations] with telecommunications infrastructure when and where appropriate,” the four said last week in a letter (PDF) to the Secretaries of Transportation and Energy, as well as the head of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
IIJA gives NTIA the task of distributing funds for a number of broadband programs, including the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The task of building broadband networks to rural and underserved areas is linked to the task of building a NEVI network in some congressional minds. The electric and telecom industries might also point to the ways that smart grid, alternative energy generation and fiber optic networks, all targets of IIJA funding, also intersect.
It appears that interagency cooperation will be an important factor in the success of Infrastructure Act programs. NTIA is already working closely with the FCC to complete accurate maps showing where broadband is or is not available, which it and state governments will use to distribute BEAD funds and other federal agencies could use for their broadband programs. Could that FCC/NTIA broadband map now be the basis for an EV charging map, as the Congressional letter writers suggest?
Recognizing how its role in broadband is overlapping with other agencies’ goals, the FCC recently asked for comments on how it could improve its interagency coordination. NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association replied with specific suggestions for improved information sharing.
- The FCC, NTIA and Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, the three major distributors of broadband program funds, should post the same tracking chart of all their programs on all three of their respective web sites. “Each agency should commit to consult this tracking chart in making funding decisions, in addition to making any other inquiries or sharing of data between them,” NTCA said.
- When it is complete, all three agencies should post the broadband map based on data from the Broadband Data Collection (BDC). “The combination of these maps would show both where broadband is and where it is required to be by a date certain.” (Emphasis NTCA’s.)
- The tracking chart should highlight the differences between the agencies’ programs with “specific and clear indication of any program that does not respect enforceable commitments in other programs when awarding funds.”
USTelecom—The Broadband Association (PDF) asked the FCC and other agencies to coordinate closely with state governments to ensure that the various broadband programs are “not spent twice on the same project.” State agencies should report to the federal agency dispersing funding when and where it is awarding projects. The federal agencies should then include that information as a layer within the BDC map.
USTelecom also emphasized the need for states to share information about broadband project funding through the Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund Program and the Capital Projects Fund. The BDC map also should include a layer displaying the location of those awards, it said.