Industry Insight Series

This is the final article in a 3-part series on navigating the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (“BEAD”) funding process and requirements. The first piece explained the proposed Buy America waiver issued in August by the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The second article focused on how BEAD will impact procurement processes and this one touches on why applicants should establish partnerships for BEAD.

Let’s start with defining “partnerships for BEAD.” In this context, a partnership is a group of companies brought together by an RFP or RFI process to help a BEAD applicant prepare their grant application and then execute an eventual award. The companies should be able to support the applicant through every phase of the project and would likely include: an electronics vendor, logistics support, an engineering firm, a construction vendor, and others. Basically, any service that the applicant needs external support for through the life of the project should be represented in the partnership. It’s important to understand that there will not be a typical grant process for BEAD. Every state will be different and while there will be some commonalities, the process itself will vary state by state. For example, the below chart gives a high-level overview of the application processes detailed in the BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2 published by Louisiana and Virginia.

Source: Nokia

While the differences are obvious (i.e. 2 rounds of funding vs. one), it is very clear that a BEAD applicant must pre-qualify and submit an application that achieves the highest score possible. The scoring criteria for each state provide the roadmap for achieving success. The below chart is a high-level overview of the scoring criteria that was proposed by Louisiana and Virginia in their respective BEAD Volume 2 Initial Proposals. As you can see, the vast majority of points are won in the primary scoring criteria. However, the difference makers between the two applicants could very well be found in the secondary criteria.

Source: Nokia

So how does an applicant score the highest possible points to put themselves in the best position to win? They do this by forming partnerships to support their application.

For example, an applicant seeking funding in Louisiana could maximize points by selecting an electronics vendor with an XGS PON Buy America compliant solution; a construction vendor with BEAD compliant fair labor practices, and a logistics supplier with warehousing capabilities that ensure as fast a deployment timeline as possible. An applicant who simply leaves placeholders in the application for these pieces is unlikely to score as high as an applicant who names vendors and provides details and accurate budget numbers.

Source: Nokia

The bottom line is that the application process for the BEAD program is going to be challenging. Applicants who plan and start working now to establish partnerships to ensure success will be in a much better position to win when the time comes to submit their grant application. Learn more about US Broadband funding opportunities and Nokia’s Buy America solutions here.

This series features insight into important broadband industry issues from industry leaders.

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