CNMI receives $81 million for broadband infrastructure
Updated: Sep 25
By Bryan Manabat
Saipan- The CNMI Broadband Policy and Development Office has secured $81 million in federal grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment or BEAD Program.
Headed by Glen Hunter, the CNMI-BPD has also submitted its BEAD Five-Year Action Plan to the NTIA which aims to improve internet services in the Commonwealth by outlining strategies for enhancing internet accessibility and affordability for all members of the CNMI community.
The action plan is one of many requirements for the recently awarded BEAD grant, Hunter said.
Knowing that stakeholders play a role in its success, Hunter sought input and feedback from all stakeholders in the CNMI, including Tinian and Rota. His office hosted virtual meetings for collaboration and discussion of their respective island needs with respect to broadband internet.
According to Hunter, the CNMI-BPD has also commenced work on an initial proposal for the BEAD program that outlines specific projects aimed at addressing challenges such as high latency, elevated costs, and limited availability of affordable internet services in the CNMI.
Currently, the CNMI-BPD is preparing a Digital Equity Five-Year Action Plan, Hunter said. The plan will develop "a strategic blueprint designed to foster digital equity throughout the CNMI, assuring equal access to digital resources and opportunities for everyone."
CNMI-BPD sees a future where all CNMI residents have access to free internet service, he said.
From Sept. 18 to 21, NTIA officials were on Saipan to conduct a a technical assistance workshop for the broadband offices of the Pacific territories.
Courtney Dozier, deputy director for Alaska and the U.S. territories, said the $81 million allocation will ensure every location in the CNMI has access to affordable internet.
NTIA, as an agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce, serves as the U.S. president's principal adviser on telecommunications policies pertaining to the United States' economic and technological advancement and regulation of the telecommunications industry.
NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.
"The money will be used to build the network through service providers," Dozier said. "And how the community will leverage that network access to fiber or fixed wireless connection to better their workforce and engage educational institutions."