After a long and uncertain journey through the legislative process, Congress passed the infrastructure bill earlier this month, and President Biden signed it into law yesterday. Among the bill’s many contributors, US Ignite offered our own recommendations to help guide the legislation forward.

In 2020, the Day One Project published a white paper titled “Smart City Technologies: Driving Economic Growth and Community Resilience” by Dr. Nick Maynard, US Ignite CEO. The white paper emphasized that smart city technologies are not being used to their full advantage and called for a National Smart City Strategy to support smart city initiatives, with a special focus on underserved communities. Among other suggestions for federal support for smart city development, the paper recommended establishing a smart city competition program like the one launched by the Department of Transportation in 2015; and expanded support and funding for regional innovation ecosystems.

Many of the elements raised by the white paper made it into the final infrastructure package. The newly signed law sets aside $500 million over five years for the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation Grant Program. This grant program is an expanded version of the 2015 Smart City Challenge that incorporates improvements based on the experience gained through the initial competition process. Some of the improvements include increased funding and wider dissemination of funds (more than one winning community will be selected). Through the grant program, entities will be awarded funding for demonstrable projects that utilize smart technologies to modernize and revolutionize transportation. The infrastructure package also sets up a public website titled “Smart Community Resource Center,” which will become an information hub for cities and municipalities that are developing or implementing smart community transportation programs. The central availability of compiled resources will support communities in forming and benefiting from shared best practices and foster a national innovation ecosystem.

Moreover, the infrastructure package allocates a total of $65 billion for broadband! The biggest chunk, $42.5 billion, will go toward establishing the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program through the Department of Commerce. The BEAD program sets up new grant opportunities for entities to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Additionally, digital literacy and broadband adoption funding will become available for states through the bill. The investment in broadband will not only offer more Americans reliable and improved access to the internet but also provide the networks that will connect physical infrastructure, which in turn will support the development and growth of more smart city applications. More details on the infrastructure package can be found here.

As funding opportunities become available to US communities, US Ignite offers its expertise and assistance to leaders in formulating a strategy to navigate the funding streams. Learn more about the services and tools we offer. Feel free to send any questions or comments to [email protected].

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