McKee Administration Issues RFP for First State Broadband Investment of $25M to Improve Service in Jamestown, Newport and Westerly | Rhode Island Commerce

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for broadband service improvements. The nearly $25M investment, the first of three phases, will improve broadband service for an estimated 6,700 locations across Jamestown (1,900), Newport (2,900), and Westerly (1,900). It is part of a larger effort by the Commerce Corporation’s ConnectRI program to support all unserved and underserved areas throughout Rhode Island. Two additional RFPs will be released in the coming months to connect all additional unserved and underserved locations in the state.

On June 10th, the Commerce Corporation’s Board of Directors approved the spending from the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to improve speed and resilience while also providing affordable broadband access to homes and businesses. The exact allocation of funds will be based on proposals that are submitted through a competitive bid process. Future improvements across the state will be made with the state’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding allocation of $108.7M from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“Broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a 21st century necessity that will keep Rhode Island competitive,” said Governor Dan McKee. “This investment is the first of several across the state that will connect the unserved and underserved to more reliable and affordable broadband.”

These investments are the culmination of nearly two years of thoughtful strategic and participatory planning, including the development of a Rhode Island Broadband & Digital Equity Strategic Plan and a Five-year Action Plan, as well as the creation of the Rhode Island Broadband Map. Jamestown, Newport, and Westerly were selected as project areas based on a formula that took into account the total number of locations served against amount of funding available, Rhode Island’s strategic priorities, and US Department of the Treasury’s CPF priorities. The priorities include weighting areas with higher percentages of households that report not having internet in the home as well as areas with lower median incomes.

“This once in a lifetime investment allows us to lay the groundwork for a more prosperous and connected future that is crucial for our state’s economic vitality,” said Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner. “By closing the digital divide, we are ensuring the access necessary to promote innovation, enhance productivity, and attract business and development.”

The RFP will require buildouts of end-to-end fiber networks that can deliver 100/100Mbps speeds and will prioritize affordability, with 100/100Mbps service built with CPF funds not to exceed $53.09/month.

“This time last year Newport hosted the state’s summit on broadband, which was followed up with a resident roundtable with Secretary Raimondo, Governor McKee, and Secretary Tanner where we discussed the importance of connectivity. Working hard to put Newport at the center of these conversations is paying off, and we are thrilled the state is making Newport part of the State’s first broadband investment project,” said Newport Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong.

“The investment by The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation into the Town of Jamestown will bring reliable and affordable broadband to nearly half of our residents. This will create further opportunity for our residents to work and learn from home. Reliable broadband has become a necessity to stay current in business and in education. The Town of Jamestown and its residents are very fortunate to be part of this initiative and we look forward to this advancement in technology,” said Jamestown Town Administrator Edward Mello.

“High speed internet has become a critical need for young students and their families, individuals, and businesses. These much-needed funds will expand educational and economic opportunities by providing affordable access to high-speed internet in parts of our community that are unserved or underserved,” said Westerly Town Manager Shawn Lacey. “The town is pleased and grateful to have been selected and we look forward to our residents and businesses benefiting from them.”

Click here to read more about the ConnectRI program.

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