The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has released a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for its $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program that will provide broadband access grants to underserved or unserved communities.
The new broadband funding – created as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 – aims to close the digital divide by expanding high-speed internet access through funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
“Digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services,” the NOFO says. “Yet affordable, reliable, highspeed internet access has remained elusive to many for too long, because they live in a location where no service is available, the speed or quality of the service available is unreliable, or the offering available is unaffordable or inadequate.”
The NOFO details that the program’s focus will be on unserved locations, “those without any broadband service at all or with broadband service offering speeds below 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream/3 Mbps upstream,” and underserved locations – “those without broadband service offering speeds of 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream.”
According to the NOFO, each state is eligible to receive a minimum of $100 million and each territory can receive a minimum of $25 million.
The BEAD program will prioritize projects that provide fiber connectivity directly to the end user. Additionally, NTIA said it will give strong preference to those that can also ensure “deployment of gigabit connections to community anchor institutions such as libraries and community centers that lack such connectivity.”
The program also requires all projects to offer a low-cost option to eligible subscribers and will prioritize proposals that improve affordability.
Those looking to apply for the funding will need to send their letters of intent to NTIA by July 18 and all supplemental information must be submitted by August 15.