On June 26, 2023, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced how it has allocated funding from the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (“BEAD”) program to all U.S. States, the District of Columbia, and five territories to deploy affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service. Marking the occasion in a White House ceremony, President Biden declared that this investment will “connect everyone in America to [affordable] high-speed Internet. . . by 2030.”
By way of background, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) became law in 2021 and directed NTIA to oversee distribution of the single greatest public investment in broadband in U.S. history. The cornerstone of that investment is the BEAD program, which we detailed here. In 2022, the NTIA released its Notice of Funding Opportunity (“NOFO”) for the BEAD program, marking the beginning of the program’s implementation, which we detailed here.
According to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, the announced investments will increase competitiveness and spur economic growth by “connecting people to the digital economy, manufacturing fiber-optic cable in America, or creating good paying jobs building Internet infrastructure in the states.” The NTIA announcement states that BEAD funding will be used to “deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service.” After meeting deployment goals, any remaining funds “can be used to pursue eligible access-, adoption-, and equity-related uses.”
The BEAD program is different from past federal broadband investments in that it will be administered by the States, D.C., and the five territories (each referred to as an “Eligible Entity”), with each jurisdiction running its own competitive process for determining the specific projects to be funded. Under the IIJA, each Eligible Entity will have until the end of this year to submit an “initial proposal,” which will be a detailed roadmap explaining how they intend to run their grant programs in a manner consistent with the requirements of the IIJA and NTIA’s NOFO. After approval of this initial proposal, an Eligible Entity can request access to at least 20 percent of its allocated funds.
Given this timetable, it is likely that states and other Eligible Entities will be in a position to award and disburse funding for broadband deployment beginning in 2024. In the meantime, NTIA continues to prepare guidance on more nuanced, but important, aspects of the BEAD program. For example, yesterday NTIA published a request for comment seeking input on potential exemptions for BEAD recipients from the federal government’s framework for grants management, known as the Uniform Guidance. There also remains an open question as to precisely how ‘Build America, Buy America’ (“BABA”) requirements will be applied in the BEAD program.
Specific details of the allocations are available on InternetForAll.Gov.