Just a few days after NTIA released the notices of funding opportunities for key broadband programs created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the agency reports that 34 states have submitted letters of intent to participate in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Asset and Deployment (BEAD) program.
The Biden administration has coined the term “High-Speed Internet for All” to encompass the BEAD program and other IIJA broadband programs.
The BEAD program is designed to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. States will be responsible for making awards to service providers through the BEAD program, but before funding is released to a state, the state must submit a detailed five-year action plan to the NTIA for approval.
The letters of intent to participate are the first step in that process. As today’s NTIA press release explains, submitting a letter of intent and a planning funds budget “will unlock up to $5 million in planning funds and allow states to begin creating their five-year action plan.”
Both red states and blue states have submitted letters of intent. They include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In addition, three territories– American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – have submitted letters of intent.
NTIA BEAD Broadband Program
Every state will get at least $100 million through the BEAD program. Additional funding will be allocated based on the number of unserved locations in the state, as determined by the updated broadband map targeted for availability later this year or early next year.
In making awards, states will be required to follow guidelines established in the IIJA, with additional detail provided in the funding notice released on Friday. Funding recipients will be required to deploy service at speeds of at least 100 Mbps, with fiber broadband projects having priority.
The IIJA also made funding available for broadband deployment by adding $2 billion to the budget for an existing tribal broadband program and by adding $2 billion to the budget for the USDA Reconnect program. In addition, it created a $1 billion middle mile program. None of those programs will be administered by the states, but instead will be administered at the federal level.
States will, however, be responsible for administering the $2.5 billion state digital equity capacity grant program, which aims to help people use the internet. That program also will involve several steps before funding is released to the states for administration.
The Commerce Department will be directly responsible for administering another digital equity program created in the IIJA—the digital equity competitive grant program.