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Broadband

Here's where BEAD planning funds are rolling out first

The NTIA on Monday released over $29 million in planning funds to five more states – Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Rhode Island – through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act (DEA) programs. With other recent announcements, that brings the department's distribution of broadband planning funds through the infrastructure law to over $55 million thus far.

(Source: Unsplash)
(Source: Unsplash)

While the NTIA has signaled next summer for the allocation of infrastructure funds through the $42.5 billion BEAD program, each participating state and territory is also entitled to up to $5 million in planning funds in order to create and enact a state broadband plan.

More allocations are expected on a rolling basis, as the NTIA said earlier this year that it received letters of intent to participate in BEAD and planning fund requests from all 50 US states and six territories.

The department is also releasing planning grants through the $2.75 billion DEA program, in conjunction with initial BEAD funds, to help states prepare to close the digital skills gaps and broaden opportunities through connectivity.

Here's a quick rundown of states that have received planning funds so far:

  • Delaware received nearly $5 million through BEAD today to add staff to its broadband office, identify unserved/underserved areas, perform surveys to understand the impact of barriers to Internet adoption and more. The state also received $516,096 to create a digital equity plan and engage with "stakeholder communities."
  • Georgia received nearly $5 million in planning funds through BEAD to build out its broadband office, identify unserved/underserved areas, etc. It also received over $1.4 million in DEA planning funds to create a digital equity plan and an "asset inventory of digital equity programs across the state."
  • Idaho recently received $4.4 million to identify unserved/underserved locations, conduct community outreach and add to its workforce for BEAD implementation. It also received $564,706 to develop a statewide digital access plan and for data collection and analysis on broadband barriers.
  • Iowa received $5 million through BEAD to bulk up broadband office staffing and perform an assessment "of the impact of the barriers to accessing reliable high-speed Internet service." It also got $708,924 through the DEA to create a digital equity plan and hire a staffer to lead it, and for community engagement initiatives.
  • Louisiana, the first state to get planning funds, received $2 million through BEAD for mapping, outreach, employee training and local coordination. It also received nearly $1 million to establish a statewide digital equity plan and hire a Digital Equity/Inclusion Specialist, and to establish partnerships with higher education institutions and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
  • Nebraska received nearly $5 million through BEAD to identify unserved/underserved locations, build out capacity for the state's broadband office and establish a framework for its Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program (NBBP). It received $598,746 to develop Nebraska's Digital Equity Plan and issue sub-awards for the development of regional plans, as well as to survey barriers to digital engagement.
  • North Carolina was awarded $5 million to add capacity to its broadband office, make improvements to existing broadband programs and identify unserved/underserved areas. The state also received over $1.4 million to create a digital equity plan, establish a planning team and conduct surveys on barriers to broadband adoption.
  • North Dakota received $5 million in BEAD funding for "planning and pre-deployment activities," according to a press release from Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) last week.
  • Ohio received $5 million through BEAD to identify unserved/underserved locations, as well as for "asset mapping across Ohio to catalog broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities." And it received $1.5 million to establish a statewide digital equity plan, hire a Digital Equity and Inclusion Manager and roll out a pilot program to engage underserved populations.
  • Rhode Island received $5 million in BEAD planning funds to identify unserved/underserved areas, perform outreach to better understand barriers to access and add and train staff for its state broadband office. The state also received $506,100 through the DEA to create a digital equity plan and conduct outreach.
  • Virginia also received nearly $5 million in BEAD planning funds, according to a joint press release last week from US Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA). The grant was awarded to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which will use it to develop plans for deploying BEAD infrastructure funds.

Build up to BEAD

With the distribution of planning funds, as well as Friday's release of the FCC's new National Broadband Map, states and territories are getting closer to having what they need to create their individual broadband plans, which will then unlock at least $100 million per state in broadband infrastructure funding.

The Department of Commerce will determine how much BEAD funding each state and territory gets – beyond the initial $100 million – based on the new FCC broadband map, after it is further revised next year. The NTIA said it "plans to announce BEAD allocations, using the most up-to-date version of the FCC maps as a guide" by June 30, 2023.

The NTIA is also managing the $1 billion Middle Mile fund, which opened for applications this year and received over $5.5 billion in grant requests. Those grants will be awarded in March 2023.

In the meantime, state broadband builds are not slowing down. Federal funds continue to flow to states and territories through state grants funded by the American Rescue Plan, as well as the Treasury Department's Capital Projects Fund and USDA ReConnect, among other programs.

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Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" podcast.

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