On November 9, 2023 the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) released an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) clarifying the use of Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum and the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Under the NTIA's BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the definition of “reliable broadband service” that may qualify for BEAD subsidies includes wireless deployments that use only licensed, or a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed, spectrum to deliver speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps. NTIA's updated FAQs clarifies that broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using CBRS general authorized access (GAA) spectrum pursuant to the Federal Communications Commission's “license-by-rule” regulations will be deemed to offer “reliable broadband” if a fiber deployment is too expensive.
This is significant for two reasons. First, broadband ISPs can potentially qualify for BEAD funding through the use of CBRS GAA spectrum, and so avoid the costs of acquiring exclusive licensed spectrum. Second, locations within an ISP's service area that are offered qualifying broadband service using CBRS GAA spectrum will be deemed “served” under the BEAD program, which avoids a potential overbuild by another BEAD-subsidized ISP.