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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has released rules for the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program, which has $288 million in grants available for rural broadband infrastructure deployments. The funding will be awarded only to partnerships between states or political subdivisions of a state and providers of fixed broadband service.

The NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP) was established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The program targets census blocks where no location has internet service available at speeds of 25/3 Mbps or higher.

“State and local leaders have the best understanding of the gaps in their broadband infrastructure,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo in a press release. “This program will allow states and localities to partner with providers to target this funding toward the areas where it is most needed and can do the most good.”

NTIA will accept applications for projects designed to:

  • Provide broadband service to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area
  • Provide broadband service to rural areas
  • Be most cost-effective in providing broadband service or
  • Provide broadband service with speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream

NTIA expects to award grants ranging from $5 million to $30 million but notes that projects requesting greater funding will be considered but must include a reasonable explanation for why so much funding is needed.

The “performance period,” which apparently means construction time, is one year unless extended by the grants officer.

NTIA plans to make decisions about BIP grants based on several criteria, weighted as follows:

  • Level of Impact in the Proposed Service Area (20 points)
  • Affordability of Services Offered (10 points)
  • Technical Approach and Related Network Capacity and Performance (20 points)
  • Applicant’s Organizational Capability (20 points)
  • Reasonableness of the Budget (10 points)
  • Sustainability of the Project (15 points)
  • Leverage of Non-Federal Resources (5 points)

Completed applications must be received by August 17, 2021 and NTIA expects to complete its review, select successful applications and process awards by November 15, 2021.

Additional information about the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program can be found in this notice of funding of opportunity.

If the Broadband Infrastructure Program name sounds familiar, that’s because the same name was used for a program administered by the USDA Rural Utilities Service just over a decade ago. That program was part of an economic stimulus package passed in the early days of the Obama administration.

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