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Understanding the NTIA BEAD Program

Understanding the NTIA BEAD Program

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently released its notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. Many of ISPN’s Partner providers will be aiming to benefit from the BEAD program. We wanted to provide an overview to those interested in learning more and pursuing funding.

The BEAD program will provide funding to expand broadband to the unserved and underserved, with a minimum of $100 million going to each state (territories will receive a minimum of $25 million). States can qualify for additional funding, determined by the number of unserved and underserved locations within each state.

Updated broadband maps from the FCC, combined with data provided from each state, will help determine the number of eligible locations and thus, the total amount of funding each state receives. Each state will determine the rules for how funds get distributed, but they all must follow guidelines set by NTIA.

Those guidelines include:

  • Priority will be given to projects that utilize fiber broadband, but other technologies can be considered for higher-cost areas
  • Providers will need to provide at least 25% matching funding, although some waivers may be issued
  • Providers who offer a low-cost option for low-income households will receive priority
  • Providers who commit to federal labor and employment laws will receive priority
  • Eligible uses for the funding include:
      • Construction, improvement, and/or acquisition of facilities and telecommunications equipment required to provide qualifying broadband service, including infrastructure for backhaul, middle- and last-mile networks, and multi-tenant buildings
      • Long-term leases (for terms greater than one year) of facilities required to provide qualifying broadband service, including indefeasible right-of-use (IRU) agreements
      • Deployment of internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure within an eligible multi-family residential building
      • Engineering design, permitting, and work related to environmental, historical, and cultural reviews
      • Personnel costs, including salaries and fringe benefits for staff and consultants providing services directly connected to the implementation of the BEAD Program (such as project managers, program directors, and subject matter experts)
      • Network software upgrades, including, but not limited to, cybersecurity solutions
      • Training for cybersecurity professionals who will be working on BEAD-funded networks
      • Workforce development, including Registered Apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, and community college and/or vocational training for broadband-related occupations to support deployment, maintenance, and upgrades
      • Networks shall deliver speeds of not less than 100/20 Mbps
      • Network outages should not exceed, on average, 48 hours over any 365-day period except in the case of natural disasters or other force majeure occurrence
      • Providers have up to 4 years from the funding date to provide broadband service to any customer who desires it within the designated funded territory

The above is only a summary of the guidelines. More details can be found here.

States have until July 18, 2022, to offer a letter of intent to participate in the BEAD program. NTIA intends to make 20% of the funds available initially, with the remaining funds distributed according to each state’s 5-year action plan. Approved states will receive $5 million for program planning purposes and must request those funds by August 15, 2022.

NTIA has ambitious goals for the BEAD program. “We have the resources to really make a structural change, to really address this mission of closing the digital divide, and that’s pretty exciting,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson at the recent Mountain Connect Conference in Colorado.

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