As many continue to struggle with telework and distance learning mandates, developing robust wireline and wireless networks has taken center stage in communities across the nation. There are a variety of models that could help improve connectivity, each with unique costs, risks, and distribution of responsibilities among participants. 

One of the main barriers to municipal network deployment are the costs associated with laying fiber, building towers, and providing for the basic infrastructure to ensure that networks will operate efficiently and effectively. What many communities may not realize is that there are a myriad of resources available to them when it comes to financing network infrastructure deployment projects. 

The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (“OCC”) helps communities find financing opportunities. OCC is an independent bureau of the United States Treasury that regulates and supervises national banks and related institutions. The OCC also highlights ways in which communities can finance broadband development initiatives through financial institutions. 

Opportunities include collaborating with community and business leaders to form broadband cooperatives, helping to craft strategic municipal planning, and providing advice to entrepreneurs seeking to finance new or expand existing networks. Additionally, the new Community Reinvestment Act allows OCC-supervised institutions to broaden considerations for financing rural broadband as essential infrastructure. 

On Thursday, August 27, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. ET, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency is holding a webinar on the various sources of financing that are available to communities seeking to deploy new or upgrade existing networks. The webinar will focus on the lesser known role that banks play in financing projects and will answer questions such as:

  • why banks finance rural broadband, 
  • financing broadband expansion projects, 
  • why banks are incentivized to form partnerships with public agencies, and 
  • how new CRA standards broaden consideration for broadband financing. 

As Timothy Herwig, District Community Affairs Officer, of the Office of the Comptroller of Currency notes:

Project financing is a seldom discussed topic that can mean the difference between a community undertaking a broadband infrastructure development project and waiting for solutions. It is critical that municipalities are aware of federal, state, and local financing options.

Investment in broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts are critical to keep America’s communities competitive in an increasingly connected world. Both the private and public sectors have roles to play and local institutions are standing by to help.