New Hampshire to Receive Municipal Broadband Grants

Infrastructure spending was something that was supposed to be included on the back-end of former President Trump’s first term in office. However, the Coronavirus pandemic reared its head and shut those projects down, which are expected to be picked up and expanded on by current President Joe Biden. Though it’s not only presidents looking to tackle infrastructure from the top town; many state governors, like New Hampshire’s Governor Chris Sununu, are also looking to tackle these projects. Sununu has signed into law this week an infrastructure bill that will divert spending from other areas into more broadband access for residents of the state.

Broadband is perhaps the most difficult form of wired infrastructure to handle. This system is buried under the ground, not run along existing electrical and phone poles. So, it becomes a much greater challenge in terms of money that needs to be spent for these projects and also getting the crews to accomplish the task. However, Gov. Sununu is confident that this infrastructure grant will not only help more of New Hampshire’s citizens have ready and affordable access to broadband, but it will also keep a lot of people employed.

Keep in mind here, however, that while this is a state grant for a state-based project, it’s actually coming from federal funds. Not that people should be overly cynical about these sorts of measures; however, it is important to remind everyone that this is a little trick over a dozen state governors have played on people in the past year. They will divert money away from the CAREs act, which was signed into law in 2020 for state-based supplemental funds from the federal government, by taking it away from programs like food and shelter. Instead of putting it where needed, some governors, who have control of the money, decide to put it into communities that are already doing well, boosting their infrastructure with upgrades. Critics of this move claim that it’s all about ensuring votes, while minority districts continue to go without necessary infrastructure fixes.

The money came into New Hampshire’s possession through federal spending, and now the state is using it to give grants to itself for infrastructure spending. It strikes many as one of those “only in America’ sort of things, where money is treated as some unlimited resource for the government to do with as they please, while the citizens will just be taxed more to make up the shortfall.

Gov. Sununu said in a statement that these projects are for rural communities. Though the definition of “rural” in New Hampshire, a northeastern, prosperous state, is a lot different than “rural” in, say, the southern United States or the Midwest. In New Hampshire, rural communities are farmers and people who live in the country; New Hampshire still does have inner cities and places that are struggling that do not meet the definition of “rural.” We will have to wait and see if the state is planning any infrastructure projects for those areas.

Little State, Big Spending

New Hampshire has a population of roughly 1.6 million people. It is one of the least populous states in the nation. However, Gov. Sununu recently signed into law a two-year budget bill for nearly $14 billion. That’s $7 billion per year that he plans to spend in a state of less than two million residents. It is unclear how much of that money is coming from the CAREs act, while it is very clear that this is a huge amount of money for a single state to spend with so few people. Though in recent times, it is on par with what most states are passing.

The issue here is not the grants given by the government with money that isn’t theirs. Nor is it a problem with the two-year budget, which isn’t nearly as much as some other states. The problem, according to critics, is that the government constantly hands over grants and spends so much money, but there isn’t any real evidence that this money is improving anything in the state. Billions of dollars are spent every year, and no one really knows where it goes.

According to Gov. Sununu, around 5% of the state doesn’t have access to broadband, and this grant should enable projects to remedy that situation. To date, there is no clear time table for when the projects will start.

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