President Biden’s infrastructure bill, which just recently became law, includes a total of $65 billion in funding for broadband infrastructure. According to USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, who joined us on a monthly NACo call, $1.96 billion will be set aside for “Reconnect” projects which are aimed at rural development and will prioritize local projects. We are watching closely to see how that money will be distributed and to queue up eligible projects.
At Nevada County’s October 12 Board meeting, we unanimously approved a contract to conduct a Countywide Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to meaningfully increase broadband projects in Nevada County. This tool will increase shovel-ready broadband projects in Nevada County, making us more competitive for federal and state broadband dollars. The programmatic EIR aims is to achieve compliance with CEQA in advance using CETF grant and PG&E settlement dollars. Additionally, moving forward with a programmatic EIR supports recommendations outlined in Nevada County's Broadband Strategy, which Supervisors adopted in October 2019. In 2019, we also established the Last Mile Grant Program, which has since awarded over $675,000 grant dollars in two grant cycles and has won awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The recipients of that award this year are currently building out their projects.