Tens of billions of dollars of Federal and state funds and low-interest loans are available to assist broadband service providers to build out broadband networks in rural and underserved areas, to provide services to schools, libraries, and low-income households, and to support telemedicine.
Federal programs: The FCC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide significant opportunities for broadband providers:
- The FCC subsidy programs include CAF-II (Connect America Fund) and the RDOF (Rural Broadband Opportunity Fund), which allocate billions of dollars to service providers through reverse auctions. The first RDOF auction closed in November 2020 with auction winners eligible for $9.2 billion. The second RDOF auction, for which rules have not yet been adopted, is expected to allocate $11.2 billion in subsidies for broadband network build out.
- The FCC's 5G Fund for Rural America will provide up to $9 billion to build 5G mobile broadband networks in rural areas. The FCC will hold two reverse auctions to allocate the funding, but no dates have been set.
- The FCC's schools and libraries (“E-Rate”) and telemedicine programs provide subsidies through RFP and applications processes.
- The FCC's ECF (Emergency Connectivity Fund) program provides $7.1 billion of subsidies for schools and libraries to pay up to 100% of the costs of broadband services and equipment. On May 10, 2021, the FCC adopted final rules implementing the ECF program.
- The FCC's EBB (Emergency Broadband Benefit) program provides $3.2 billion of discounts for low-income households to pay for broadband services and connected devices. The EBB program commenced on May 12, 2021.
- The Department of Agriculture offers grants and low-interest loans through competitive application processes.
State programs: Many states offer additional broadband subsidies and low-interest loan programs. These programs – including the level of subsidies and the loan terms and conditions – vary from state-to-state.
- State programs are typically offered through a competitive application process, not reverse auctions.
- Examples of state grant programs include the California Advanced Services Fund ($575 million); the Kansas Broadband Acceleration Program ($85 million); and the Connecting Michigan Communities Grant Program ($30 million).
We add value for our clients seeking to pursue these opportunities by:
- Identifying the right broadband funding and low-interest loan programs for their needs;
- Helping them understand applicable regulatory and legal requirements;
- Guiding them through the specific federal and/or state processes to apply for subsidies or loans, including reverse auctions and competitive applications.
To learn more, see our FAQs on broadband subsidy programs.