BEAD Milestone Met: What’s Next?

Posted by CommLaw | Jun 29, 2023 | 0 Comments

On June 26, 2023, the U.S. National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA) announced the allocation of $42.45 billion among the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories, for infrastructure projects to deliver broadband to unserved and underserved communities under the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.  According to the Biden Administration, there are over 8.5 million U.S. households and small businesses that are underserved. Each state will receive at least $107 Million in BEAD funding, with 19 states to receive more than $1 Billion.

It is now up to each state to formulate a comprehensive initial grant proposal (Initial Proposal) for use of its BEAD funding, which among other things must describe the competitive process to select subgrantees for the construction of broadband projects. The Initial Proposal must be available for public comment and then must be submitted to NTIA by December 27, 2023 for review and approval. After it submits the Initial Proposal and before BEAD funds are allocated, the state must conduct a challenge process, which permits entities, including governments and competitors, to challenge a determination in the state's Initial Proposal that a particular location(s) is unserved or underserved. The state must submit any successful challenges to NTIA for review and approval. Once NTIA approves a state's Initial Proposal, the state will receive 20% of the allocated funds. At that point, a state can begin the competitive selection process for subgrantees, including broadband Internet Service Providers, and will have up to one year to conduct additional local coordination, complete the selection process, and submit a final grant proposal (Final Proposal) to NTIA.

After a state has selected subgrantees and implemented its Initial Proposal, it must prepare and make available for public comment a Final Proposal describing how it complied with its Initial Proposal, which it submits to NTIA. Once NTIA approves the Final Proposal, the state will receive the remaining 80% of funds and will commence the subgrant process for those funds, and for any portion of the initial 20% percent that was not awarded to a subgrantee. Finally, after the funds have been allocated, the state must meet ongoing reporting obligations and monitor its subgrantees' compliance with the BEAD program requirements.

A comprehensive description of the BEAD program and process can be found in the NTIA's Notice of Funding Opportunity.

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