Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet welcomed $2.8 million in federal funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support broadband deployment in Northeast Colorado through the Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) auction. The FCC awarded the grant to N.E. Colorado Cellular, Inc. (Viaero Wireless) to connect 731 locations across Northeast Colorado to broadband.
“I welcome this new funding to help close the digital divide in Northeast Colorado,” said Bennet. “As the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, it’s become especially urgent to ensure our rural communities can work, learn, and access telemedicine remotely to protect themselves and their families. While this much-needed funding is welcome news for communities in Northeast Colorado, we must invest far more to deliver affordable, 21st century broadband that will meet the needs of our rural communities, not only in the short-term, but for years to come.”
“NE Colorado Cellular, Inc. (DBA Viaero Wireless) is very pleased to begin receiving CAF II funding pursuant to its winning bids in the FCC Action 903. Viaero will use the nearly $2.8MM, to be paid in monthly increments over the next ten years, to provide 25 up and 3 down MBps Broadband services for 731 locations in some of the most rural areas of the following counties in eastern Colorado: Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Costilla, Crowley, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Lincoln, Morgan, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo, Washington, Yuma,” said Mike Felicissimo, President, NE Colorado Cellular, Inc. DBA Viaero Wireless.
The FCC announcement was part of its recent authorization of over $7.5 million in funding over ten years to expand rural broadband across seven states, including Colorado. The funding comes through the FCC’s CAF II auction, which has a total budget of nearly $2 billion over ten years. CAF II recipients must build out broadband to at least 40% of locations stipulated in its award within three years, and to 100% of locations within six years.
In the wake of the pandemic, Bennet has taken several steps to help close the digital divide. Last week, Bennet introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act to help students access mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi enabled devices during the pandemic. Bennet also wrote to Congressional leaders urging additional funding to deploy high-speed broadband in areas currently without access in future relief legislation. Bennet called on the FCC to coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure that the millions of Americans newly eligible for SNAP or Medicaid due to the pandemic are also informed of their eligibility for the Lifeline program, which offers discounted internet access for low-income Americans. In March, Bennet also wrote to the FCC to ensure Americans are not disconnected from the Lifeline program during the crisis and called on the country’s top internet companies to keep families connected and to waive data caps and overage fees until the pandemic has abated.