The $42.5 billion BEAD rural broadband funding program has sufficient funding to enable all eligible locations to get high-speed broadband, according to a new BEAD impact analysis from Cartesian commissioned by provider association ACA Connects.
That includes 71% of eligible locations that would get fiber broadband, researchers said. The percentage of fiber builds will vary considerably from one state to another, however.
Twenty-one states could get 100% fiber coverage, while 24% could see coverage between 50%-99% and six would see fiber coverage below 50%, the researchers said. The states where fiber coverage would be below 50% are Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
That analysis assumes what Cartesian called a “maximum fiber” scenario, in which states set a relatively high-cost threshold. The high-cost threshold is the maximum amount of funding that a state will award per location to cover some of the costs of deploying fiber to unserved and underserved areas. Providers would be allowed to use technologies other than fiber – most likely, fixed wireless – to serve locations where the cost to deploy fiber exceeds the threshold.
In an alternative “baseline” scenario, all states would set the high-cost threshold at a “reasonable” level. The researchers estimate an average high-cost threshold of $9,000 per location. Researchers also estimate that providers will contribute $3,000 per location in matching funds for both the maximum fiber analysis and the baseline analysis.
In the baseline scenario, no state would see 100% fiber deployment for BEAD locations, according to the analysis, and two additional states — Hawaii and Nevada — would see less than 50% fiber coverage. At the top end of the scale, seven states would see more than 90% fiber deployment.
Cartesian and ACA Connects previously released at least two earlier versions of their BEAD impact analysis. Other notable findings of the latest version, titled BEAD Program: A Framework to Allocate Funding for Broadband Availability – National Overview, include:
- Researchers estimate that the number of eligible BEAD locations nationwide will be 6.4 million as of June 2024, when the first funding is expected to be awarded to service providers. This is a decline from 10.3 million in the previous report, which was released in June 2023, as providers have continued to deploy high-speed broadband.
(BEAD-eligible locations include unserved and underserved areas. Unserved areas are those lacking “reliable” service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Underserved areas lack service at speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps.)
- Unsurprisingly, the per-location cost to deploy fiber to remaining eligible areas has increased because recent deployments have tended to target areas that are the least costly to serve. The researchers now estimate the cost to deploy fiber at $13.3K per unserved location and $11.9K per underserved location. Those estimates represent increases of $175 and $1,000 per location, respectively.