As previewed in our earlier post, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced how much money each state and territory will be allocated as part of the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program (the “BEAD Program”). Nineteen states were allocated more than $1 billion: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
States now have until December 23, 2023, to submit to NTIA their Initial Proposal to award these funds. The Initial Proposal must outline:
- The specific locations in the state that qualify as unserved, underserved, and community anchor institutions. These determinations must be made using the FCC’s broadband map as a base, but states can propose changes to the classification of specific locations.
- The competitive bidding process the state proposes to employ to award projects.
- The challenge process the state will implement to allow local governments, non-profit organizations, and broadband service providers to dispute the proposed classification of specific locations.
A few days after the allocation announcement, NTIA released guidance for the challenge process that each state must include in its Initial Proposal. The challenge process must allow each state’s local government entities, nonprofits, and broadband service providers to dispute the state’s decision that a particular location is eligible for funding under the BEAD Program. States must complete the entire challenge process within 90 days.
NTIA’s guidance states that while states may propose to change the classification of locations as they currently appear in the FCC’s National Broadband Map, they cannot propose to add locations not already included in the National Broadband Map. The guidance also emphasizes that locations covered by a separate federal broadband deployment commitment should not be designated as unserved or underserved. NTIA must approve any proposed changes arising from the challenge process. States may not commence their competitive award processes until NTIA approves the Initial Plan and the challenge process ends.
Some states have expressed disappointment with the allocated funds. Many will look at NTIA’s allocation formula before deciding on next steps. Given the aggressive deadlines, however, states will likely focus on their broadband maps to maximize where they can use the allocated funds. With states now finalizing their maps and defining their competitive bidding and challenge processes, it is time to engage with the state leadership where you are interested in participating. The SPB Global Projects and Policy Team are involved and happy to answer questions and provide assistance.