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Around $5 million in federal grant funding announced Tuesday will be used to develop a long-term plan to expand access to high-speed internet and could later qualify Connecticut for as much as $100 million in grants, according to the governor’s office. 

State officials including Gov. Ned Lamont announced the new grants during a morning press conference with Alan Davidson, an assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

Davidson said the grants announced Tuesday should help Connecticut identify areas where access to affordable broadband internet is limited.

“We’ve given the states some homework assignments from the federal government,” Davidson said. “Before we write a $100 million check, we want to see a plan for how you’re going to spend it. That’s what this money is for.”

State officials said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted areas of Connecticut where internet access was limited, complicating efforts to provide necessary services like education and health care on a remote basis. 

Lamont, a former owner of a cable television company, said internet access infrastructure was lacking in both urban and rural corners of Connecticut. 

“Wired infrastructure is very expensive, especially in some of the multi-family units. I think there, you’ll find in urban areas, they are most likely to be left behind. Also, I know from the cable TV days, if you’re at the end of a long road, it’s just prohibitively expensive pole coax or fiber,” Lamont said. “It’s bipolar in that sense.”

The plan to identify barriers to high-quality internet access will be conducted over the next year by the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

State Revenue Services Commissioner Mark Boughton, who Lamont tasked with coordinating infrastructure planning, said residents who currently live in an area without access to high speed internet should expect the process to take a number of years. 

“Look, this is a five-year program across the country,” Boughton said. “We’re not going to throw out a really good solution because we might have to wait an extra year to get it done. It will be within our lifetime, that’s for sure. It will be sooner rather than later, but I think three to five years is a safe bet.”