The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is seeking comment on new proposed rules that will impact broadband stakeholders. The new rules require data-driven assessment of broadband service and availability for low income housing units, installation of broadband infrastructure into any new low-income housing construction, and installation/upgrading of broadband infrastructure into housing undergoing substantial rehabilitation.
The proposed rules follow the lead of past programs created by the Obama Administration to bridge the digital divide. Following a Presidential Memorandum in March of 2015, the Broadband Opportunity Council was established to encourage interagency collaboration and coordination that would promote broadband deployment and adoption. HUD was one of many agencies to participate in this group, and in July of 2015, HUD launched the ConnectHome initiative to formalize broadband as a priority for low income housing development in 28 cities.
The rules will have an impact on the Consolidated Planning process that HUD uses to strategically plan investment and focus across multiple programs that receive federal funding. Programs that will be impacted by the proposed changes include the Community Development Block Grant program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, Emergency Solutions Grants program, and the Housing with Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.
The Administration hopes continued integration of broadband friendly policies in their ongoing programs will help bring the issue of digital inclusion to the forefront, and help close the digital divide for low income and rural communities.
Comments for the proposed rules must be submitted by July 18, 2016. Information about how to comment and the full notice can be found in the Federal Register here:
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