All 50 states and all U.S. territories have submitted applications for planning funds for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, which is the first step in making $42.5 billion in funding available to cover some of costs of bringing high-speed broadband to areas that currently do not have service available.
The BEAD program will be administered by the states under the guidance of the NTIA. States will be responsible for awarding funding to network operators to cover some of the costs of deploying high-speed broadband to unserved areas. The states can tailor award guidelines as long as the guidelines conform to basic rules established by NTIA.
Planning fund applications were due Monday. In a press release about the BEAD planning funds, NTIA said it “will evaluate the applications and make awards available as expeditiously as possible.”
As NTIA explains in the release, planning funds can be used for activities such as:
- Research and data collection;
- Publications, outreach, and communications support;
- Providing technical assistance to potential subgrantees;
- Training for employees of a broadband program;
- Establishing, operating, or increasing capacity of a broadband office;
- Mapping to catalogue broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities;
- Conducting surveys of unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption; and,
- Promoting the Affordable Connectivity Program to help connect Americans immediately.
Once the NTIA approves planning funds for a state, the state must submit a five-year action plan to NTIA within 270 days. The action plan is intended to establish goals and priorities and “serve as a comprehensive needs assessment,” NTIA said.
The funding available to each state for the BEAD program will be based on the number of locations in the state that do not have high-speed broadband available to them. That number will be determined based on the Broadband Data Collection initiative that is being administered by the FCC. Service providers have until September 1 to submit broadband availability data to the FCC using an interface that the FCC has established.
Some industry observers are expecting to see some individual states challenging the amount of funding they are offered. Some states have conducted or are conducting their own broadband availability research that could be used for potential challenges.