All 50 states have submitted letters of intent to participate in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding program and to participate in the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, which has a budget of approximately $1.5 billion.
The BEAD program is designed to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas and the digital equity program is designed to advance digital equity, promote digital inclusion activities, and spur greater broadband adoption.
Both programs are to be administered by the states under the supervision of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). But before funding can be released, the states must designate the agency that will be responsible for making awards and the NTIA must approve the state’s plans for the programs. The letters of intent are the first step in the process.
The NTIA has overall responsibility for both funding programs, as well as several others that it will administer itself and that were created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has a total budget of $65 billion for broadband.
States will have to conform to guidelines established by NTIA in making funding awards through the digital equity and BEAD programs but will have some leeway. For example, NTIA chief Alan Davidson has said that he expects less costly but also less powerful technologies such as satellite broadband to play a greater role in some states than in others.
The funding allocated to each state for the BEAD program will depend on the number of unserved high-cost locations in the state, with each state receiving at least $100 million. Exact funding per state won’t be known until the FCC completes the project of updating the National Broadband Map, which will detail where broadband is and is not available.
That information is expected to be available later this year. Unserved locations are defined as those lacking broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
According to an NTIA press release, all U.S. territories also have submitted letters of intent to participate in the BEAD and digital equity programs. Letters of intent for the digital equity program were due July 12 and letters of intent for the BEAD program were not due until July 18.
The Biden administration has been using the term “Internet for All” to describe the various broadband funding initiatives that were created in the IIJA and other legislation adopted over the last year or so.