NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and ACA Connects announced they will work together to ensure that the $42.5 billion in funding in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program is administered fairly and efficiently and that the organizations’ members are kept apprised of important details. BEAD is part of the $65 billion infrastructure bill that was signed into law last month by President Biden.
The BEAD Program aims to spur broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. It will be overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and administered by the states and territories.
NTCA’s and ACA Connects’ BEAD Program State-by-State Tracking Project will provide members of the respective organizations with state/territory reports. The reports will include terms, conditions and deadlines that have been adopted for grants and how to challenge whether or not an area is unserved or underserved. The information will be exclusively for NTCA and ACA Connects members.
The NTCA and ACA Connects say that the reports can enable members to help their states and territories benchmark how other jurisdictions are implementing the program, and recognize best practices and effective timelines for the distribution of funds.
Each state will get a minimum of $100 million in the program. Additional funding will be awarded based on the number of unserved high cost locations in the state. Unserved is defined as lacking broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
Those winning network operators must meet requirements in three areas: They must deploy at speeds of 100 Mbps/20 Mbps, meet latency measurements that enable real-time interactivity and build systems that do not have outages of longer than 48 hours over any 365-day period. The Department of Commerce has 180 days after the November 15 signing of the law to issue a notice of funding opportunity. This will include details on how the BEAD program will roll out.
The Infrastructure bill also includes $1 billion for middle mile networks, $2 billion for a Tribal program and adds $2 billion to the US Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program. The program also makes $600 million available for tax-exempt private activity bonds that can be used by state and local governments to support broadband deployments.