The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said on August 17 that all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories, have filed applications for initial planning funds under the government’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program that aims to distribute $42.4 billion of broadband-related grants to underserved or unserved communities.
The BEAD Program is part of the Biden administration’s larger Internet for All Initiative.
NTIA, which is part of the Commerce Department, said it will “evaluate the applications and make awards available as expeditiously as possible.”
After receipt of the initial planning funds, the next step in the process for states and territories is to submit a five-year action plan to NTIA that will help flesh out their goals and priorities for broadband services, and also function as a comprehensive needs assessment. That action plan is due within 270 days of receipt of the planning funds.
NTIA said that planning funds can be used for a range of tasks, including:
- Research and data collection;
- Publications, outreach, and communications support;
- Providing technical assistance to potential subgrantees;
- Training for employees of a broadband program;
- Establishing, operating, or increasing capacity of a broadband office;
- Mapping to catalogue broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities; and
- Conducting surveys of unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption.
“The Internet for All Initiative will provide states and territories the resources they need for thorough planning, which is essential to ensure funding is used equitably, efficiently, and effectively,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, in a press release.
“I want to thank every state and territory for meeting our deadline so that we can close the digital divide as quickly and completely as possible,” he said.