Published by Bill Lee, Vice President, Global Professional Services
At the recent Light Reading Digital Divide Digital Symposium, I spoke on the ‘Betting the Farm on Fiber’ panel, and the question was raised – Is Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD) funding for Service Providers, too?
The answer is yes, if the service provider delivers service in any of the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and/or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The BEAD program within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is a federal program that provides $42.45 billion in grants to eligible entities to expand high-speed internet access. Access will be increased through three key efforts: funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs.
BEAD prioritizes unserved locations that have no internet access or that have access under 25/3Mbps and underserved locations with access under 100/20Mbps; providing 1 gigabit per second symmetrical connections to community anchor institutions (libraries, schools, hospitals).
Funding allocations will be based on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new broadband maps (November 18, 2022). Once the high-cost allocation formula is announced (in early 2023), states and territories can submit their initial proposals for release of a portion of their allocated funds (minimum $100M for US states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; minimum $25M for other US territories).
The first step in the BEAD process was for each eligible entity (i.e., the local Broadband Office) to submit a letter of intent to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) by July 18, 2022. Most states (except for MA, MT, NM) received broadband planning allocations by the end of 2022. These awarded entities must write a five-year plan detailing their broadband goals and priorities within 270 days of receipt of the funds.
By partnering with these eligible entities (i.e., Broadband Office in each state), service providers can be a subgrantee and work with the local Broadband Office of the state and help them submit a final proposal. Examples include:
Working with the Broadband Office at this initial stage helps service providers lay the foundation for the next step in the BEAD process when the NTIA announces allocations for each state (by June 30, 2023), after the FCC releases the second version of the broadband coverage map from November 2022. Once the allocations are announced, states will have 180 days to submit an initial proposal outlining how they plan to spend the money and how they will select subgrantees (including entities like service providers and municipalities).
States and territories have significant authority to build programs that reflect their priorities. To encourage local engagement, some state and territorial broadband offices are already working with other partners to help educate local leaders on how to quantify their broadband needs and apply for funds. We can help service providers take advantage of NTIA’s -BEAD program to deliver best in class experience to their customers – Ask us how!
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