NTIA clarified today that states are required to include a challenge process in the initial proposals for the BEAD rural broadband funding program that the states must file with the agency.
The commission issued 36 pages of proposed guidance for the states on how to design and conduct their BEAD challenge processes, including a model challenge process. Stakeholders have until May 5 to submit comments about the proposal to NTIA.
The purpose of the BEAD challenge process would be to enable “a unit of local government, nonprofit organization, or broadband service provider” to challenge a determination made by the state in the state’s initial BEAD proposal as to “whether a particular location or community anchor institution is eligible for BEAD funds, including whether a particular location is unserved or underserved.”
According to NTIA, the requirement to conduct a challenge process is included in the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the BEAD program. The NOFO was issued in May 2022.
On a webinar several weeks ago, Evan Feinman, head of the BEAD program for NTIA, encouraged states to do a challenge process involving the broadband availability information contained in the FCC National Broadband Map. That’s the database that NTIA plans to use to allocate BEAD funding to the states.
BEAD Challenge Process Proposal
Key points of the NTIA BEAD challenge process proposal include:
- Challenges can be made by units of local and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations and broadband service providers.
- The challenge process must be completed within 90 days and must include a minimum challenge submission window of at least 14 days, and a rebuttal period of at least 14 days. Final classifications of locations must be publicly posted at least 60 days before allocating grant funds for network deployments.
- NTIA will not permit new broadband serviceable locations to be added or removed from the National Broadband Map fabric.
- Challenge processes must include four phases: publication of eligible locations, challenge, rebuttal and final determination.
- States must outline a “rigorous evidentiary review process” for challenges. “In general citizen surveys do not constitute acceptable evidence for either challenges or rebuttals,” NTIA said.
- States must explain how they will update the eligible locations to reflect data not present in the National Broadband Map and to remove locations that have funding commitments under another program to deploy qualifying broadband service.
- Propagation studies for fixed wireless service are subject to NTIA evaluation of their methodology.
Updated with key points from the challenge process proposal