The state of Louisiana has the distinction of being awarded the first planning grant in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, which has a budget of $42.5 billion for rural broadband deployments. The state also was awarded funding through the Digital Equity Act to plan digital equity programs.
Both programs will be administered by the states under the direction of NTIA, which announced the Louisiana grants today. The programs were created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
Louisiana will receive $2 million for BEAD planning and $941,542 for digital equity planning.
According to an NTIA press release, the BEAD planning funds can be used for:
- Identification of unserved and underserved locations
- Outreach to diverse stakeholders across all entities and geographies within the state;
- Training for employees of the broadband program
- Asset mapping across the state administrator to catalogue broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities;
- Surveys of unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption
- Efforts to support local coordination including capacity building at the local and regional levels.
All 50 states, all five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have applied to receive BEAD planning funds, which is the first step in getting access to BEAD funding earmarked for the state. The NTIA must approve a state’s plan before funding can be released.
The amount of BEAD funding that will be available to each state will be determined based on the number of unserved locations in the state and the percentage that number represents of total U.S. unserved locations. The NTIA expects to use FCC data in determining those percentages and the FCC is still in the process of gathering that data.
Digital Equity Planning Grants
The digital equity planning grants can be used for:
- Development of a Statewide Digital Equity Plan;
- Hiring of a Digital Equity/Inclusion Specialist who will create and execute the state digital equity strategy;
- Partnerships with a consortium of our higher education institutions;
- Engagements with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance to provide direct advice and best practices.
The Biden administration is using the term “Internet for All” as an umbrella term for various broadband funding programs.