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Commerce Department’s NTIA Releases Details for Funds Distributed Under IIJA

Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) details parameters of Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.



Photo of Gina Raimondo from November 2021 by Demetrius Freeman

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2022 – The U.S. Commerce Department on Friday morning released the rules governing three separate federal broadband programs, laying down the rules for more than $45 billion in spending.

The agency’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration released the Notice of Funds Opportunity for its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as expected.

“In the 21st century, you simply cannot participate in the economy if you don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Monday. She was expected to make additional remarks in Durham, North Carolina.

“Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Americans across the country will no longer be held back by a lack of high-speed internet access. We are going to ensure every American will have access to technologies that allow them to attend class, start a small business, visit with their doctor, and participate in the modern economy,” according to Raimondo’s remarks from a press release.

The IIJA, signed into law on November 15, 2021, required Commerce to release the BEAD NOFO by Monday, May 16. It had been expected to release those rules Friday.

Funding under the BEAD program is primarily directed through state broadband offices, acting under the supervision of the NTIA through the legislative framework established by IIJA, and the regularly rules laid out in the BEAD NOFO.

Want to know more about this game-changing document, and the powerful tools it brings to U.S. last mile broadband? Visit Broadband.Money‘s tools and resources, including four themes to watch for in the BEAD NOFO.

Amounts of funding and general framework

But the agency also released the rules for the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure and State Digital Equity Act programs on Friday, in advance of when IIJA required the notices.

The IIJA allocated $65 billion in funding for broadband spending, with at least $45 billion allocated to the NTIA through these three programs. The $42.5 billion for BEAD is designed to address last-mile broadband connectivity. The $1 billion for middle mile spending addresses the “secondary highways” — in between data centers and individual homes — that allow our internet to work. The additional $1.5 billion is for states to engage in programs designed to address digital equity.

Most of the additional $20 billion of broadband funds under IIJA are dispensed through the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

But BEAD itself also include money for planning grants: Under IIJA, each state is guaranteed to receive $100 million in BEAD funds for broadband infrastructure. Up to $5 million of those awards may be drawn down within three months.

Each state is able to receive at least $100 million in funding. Particular states may receive significantly more depending upon the proportion of “unserved” broadband homes in their state relative to the nation as a whole. Whether a particular home is “unserved” or not will be determined by broadband maps to be created by the FCC.

The funding is being dispensed by states to sub-grantees, including private, cooperative and municipal broadband providers, and the BEAD funding is designed primarily to address inadequate last-mile broadband connectivity throughout the country.

To participate in the BEAD Program, states and other eligible entities must submit a letter of intent and a planning funds budget. Each state will have support from NTIA staff.

The Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program will award grants on a competitive basis to eligible entities for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure.

Friday’s launch of the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program kicks off a series of Digital Equity Act steps that will invest $1.5 billion to heighten adoption and use, like digital literacy training, for those who need it most, including communities of color, rural communities, and older Americans.

New web site from the Commerce Department’s NTIA

In addition to program’s kickoff by Raimando, the NTIA launched a new web site, Internet for All, as well as an Internet for All Fact Sheet, with links to all three broadband programs.

The agency also released a series of webinars for every day next week. And the week after next, this writer will have the the opportunity to sit and and interview NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson at Mountain Connect on Tuesday, May 24.

“The resources in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will allow us to bring broadband infrastructure to every corner of our country, make service affordable for everyone, and ensure users have the devices and digital skills they need,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.

“Generations before us brought electricity to rural America and built the interstate highways,” said Davidson, who is also Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. “Our generation’s task is to connect all Americans online.”

NTIA gives preference to fiber

The 98-page Notice of Funding Opportunity provides answers to many of the questions for which the NTIA sought comment in January and February. Local coordination emerges as a strong theme in the BEAD NOFO.

In the NOFO, the NTIA provides a clear preference on some important questions, including fiber versus other technologies, addressing the underserved as well as the unserved, and ensuring no bar on municipal broadband.

“With respect to the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure, the Program prioritizes projects designed to provide fiber connectivity directly to the end user,” the NTIA’s NOFO reads on page 7.

The requirement also highlights how important it is that projects “provide a low-cost option to eligible subscribers” and that state awardees “have plans to address middle-class affordability.” (Also on page 7.)

Later, the NTIA emphasizes that to meet the threshold for being a “Priority Broadband Project,” a project must “provision service via end-to-end fiber-optic facilities to each end-user premises.” (Page 14.) In a footnote, the agency further notes that “a project that will rely entirely on fiber-optic technology to each end-user premises will ensure that the network built by the project can easily scale speeds over time to meet the evolving connectivity needs of households and businesses and support the deployment of 5G, successor wireless technologies, and other advanced services.”

The underserved are not slighted

Additionally, the NTIA is not unduly emphasizing the “underserved” part of the broadband marketplace.

IIJA established the definition of “unserved” as a location not capable of receiving broadband internet access at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, which is the FCC’s current definition of broadband.

IIJA established a second definition of “underserved” as a location not capable of receiving broadband at 100 Mbps x 20 Mbps.

This means that a broadband project aiming to address the “underserved” as well as the “unserved” may require more robust broadband investment.

“The [BEAD] Program’s principal focus will be on deploying broadband service to unserved locations and underserved locations,” the NTIA writes on page 7 (emphasis in original).

“Eligible Entities that demonstrate they will be able to ensure service to all unserved and underserved locations will be free to propose plans that use remaining funds in a wide variety of ways, but NTIA underscores its strong preference that Eligible Entities also ensure deployment of gigabit connections to community anchor institutions such as libraries and community centers that lack such connectivity.”

This language, and the inclusion of “unserved” and “underserved” in the same phrase, strongly suggest that the NTIA is seeking to nudge states toward the more ambitious goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to 100 x 20 Mbps broadband.

Municipal broadband gets a warm embrace

Also noting that IIJA specifically requires that BEAD funds be available for private, cooperative and non-profit broadband providers, NTIA is firmly nudging states to eliminate or relax existing laws against municipal broadband.

On page 50 and 51, the NTIA writes:

  • Competition among broadband providers has the potential to offer consumers more affordable, high-quality options for broadband service. As required by the Infrastructure Act, in awarding subgrants for the deployment of a broadband network using grant funds, Eligible Entities may not exclude cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, public-private partnerships, private companies, public or private utilities, public utility districts, or local governments (“potential providers”) from eligibility for grant funds. In determining whether to approve an Eligible Entity’s Initial or Final Proposal, NTIA will consider whether the Eligible Entity has, after the enactment of the Infrastructure Act, adopted new laws, regulations, policies, procedures or any other form of rule or restriction that, in the determination of NTIA, seeks to exclude or has the effect of excluding any potential providers from eligibility for its subgrant competition. This could include new laws that have the effect of excluding providers from offering broadband service or rendering them incapable of effectively competing for subgrants.
  • Some laws of Eligible Entities concerning broadband, utility services, or similar subjects that predate the enactment of the Infrastructure Act may either preclude certain public sector providers from participation in the subgrant competition or may impose specific requirements on public sector entities, such as limitations on the sources of financing, the required imputation of costs not actually incurred by the public sector entity, or restrictions on the service a public sector entity can offer. NTIA strongly encourages Eligible Entities to waive all such laws for purposes of the Program. If an Eligible Entity does not do so, the Eligible Entity must identify all such laws in its Initial Proposal and describe how the laws will be applied in connection with the competition for subgrants. Such Eligible Entity must, in its Final Proposal, disclose each unsuccessful application affected by such laws and describe how those laws impacted the decision to deny the application.

Steps and deadlines

The NOFO kicks off a series of key milestones and grant application deadlines. Letters of intent from states must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 18, 2022. All supplemental information must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on August 15, 2022.

These states must then submit their five-year action plans to NTIA within 270 days of receiving their planning funds. States will be notified of future submission deadlines following the FCC’s release of the maps required by the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technology Availability (DATA) Act that was again included in IIJA. The FCC has said these maps will be available this fall.

Following those first three steps (the letter of intent, request for initial planning funds, and the five-year action plan), additional steps in the IIJA BEAD process include: (4) Program Fund Allocation and the Notice of Available Amounts, (5) the Initial Proposal, (6) the Challenge Process, (7) the Subgrantee Selection Process, (8) the 20 Percent Funding Release, and (9) the Final Proposal and Release of Remaining Funds.

Among the Commerce Department’s talking points include:

  • Connect All Americans to High-Speed Internet. For far too long, too many Americans have been left out or left behind because they don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet.
  • Close the Digital Divide. Beyond lacking access, many people in communities across the nation can’t afford Internet service, or they don’t have the skills necessary to effectively use the Internet or a connected device.
  • Make the Internet More Affordable. Internet access is essential to participate in today’s economy. For far too long, too many Americans have been left out or left behind because they don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet.
  • Ensure that Children have Access to the Education they Deserve. During the pandemic, parents and children were asked to work and learn alongside one another at home – but far too many homes didn’t have internet access at the speeds and cost necessary to participate.
  • Expand Telehealth and Connect Vital Public Safety Services. For Americans who live in communities with slow or unreliable Internet connections, the COVID-19 pandemic posed an extraordinary challenge. Communities with limited or no access were left out and left behind without access to life-changing or life-saving technologies for education and telehealth.
  • Create Good-Paying American Jobs. A highly trained, diverse workforce that can safely do their jobs will be essential to connecting everyone in America to high-speed internet. The Internet for All programs will create thousands of good-paying jobs, and NTIA will work with states, territories, and other partners to ensure that those jobs are accessible to a workforce that looks like America.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.


North Carolina Releases Final Guidance on $100 Million Pole Replacement Program

Providers may receive up to $10,000 for each utility pole they replace in unserved areas.



Photo of Nate Denny, deputy secretary for broadband and digital equity at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology.

WASHINGTON, November 27, 2023 – North Carolina’s broadband office released on Monday final guidance for its $100 million pole replacement program.

The program, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, will reimburse broadband providers for utility pole replacement costs. Expanding networks can involve attaching equipment to those utility poles. When a pole needs to be replaced to accommodate more equipment, pole owners typically pass the cost on to attachers.

Telecommunications companies have cited this extra cost as a barrier to quick broadband deployments, something utility companies dispute. The two industries have been in conflict on the issue for years, with both continuing to push the FCC to weigh in on a cost sharing regime.

North Carolina’s plan is an effort to smooth over the issue for future broadband expansion efforts, Nate Denny, the state department of information technology’s deputy secretary for broadband and digital equity, said in a statement. 

“It addresses a significant barrier to closing the digital divide in remote parts of our state,” he said.

Under the program, broadband providers can apply for 50 percent of the replacement cost for each pole replaced, up to $10,000 per pole. Pole replacement costs in unserved areas after June 1, 2021 are eligible for reimbursement. 

The program will kick off in February 2024 and accept applications from qualified providers.

The FCC has authority in 26 states over the terms of agreements between investor-owned utilities and telecom companies, which does not include publicly owned utilities or broadband providers that solely provide internet. The agency is set to vote on updated pole attachment rules at its December meeting.

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Expert Opinion

Kate Forscey: National Security and Global Success Depend Upon Prioritizing Telecom Funding

The Affordable Connectivity Program and the Rip-and-Replace program are both central funding needs for the industry.



The author of this Expert Opinion is Kate Forscey, contributing fellow for the Digital Progress Institute

With the government now funded into the new year, it’s time for Congress to take another look at its broader priorities, especially when it comes to the race with China for dominance in next-generation technologies. Whether it’s AI or cloud computing or virtual reality, if the United States is to remain competitive, we need to make secure and effective communications a priority. This means finally connecting all Americans to high-speed broadband and ensuring that our connectivity cannot be undermined by foreign adversaries.

Two popular programs are central to this goal: the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Rip-and-Replace program. Both of these programs have tremendous bipartisan, bicameral support; but both have been underfunded and now risk dying on the vine. Congress has the opportunity to fully fund these programs if it has the will to do so.

Let’s break it down.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides low-income American families and veterans with discounts on Internet service and connectivity equipment, including higher discounts for those living on Tribal lands. With affordable broadband, more Americans can get online and be a part of the digital economy.

The ACP has been wildly successful, connecting over 21 million households to essential broadband they could otherwise not afford. And it continues to garner widespread support, with the vast majority of voters (78%) calling for its extension, including 64% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, and 95% of Democrats.

Congress provided the ACP with $14.2 billion in 2021—but funding is now running low and is projected to be fully exhausted by spring 2024. Governors, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, public interest groups, and Internet service providers are all raising the alarm about its imminent depletion. That’s why the Biden Administration in October called on Congress to replenish the program’s coffers with an additional $6 billion.

A good start, but not the whole story. Our foreign adversaries are well known for their espionage, and while a spy balloon might get the attention, a far more insidious problem lurks in our communications networks: equipment designed and produced by Chinese suppliers Huawei and ZTE. A bipartisan Congress passed the Secure and Trusted Networks Act to eradicate national security threats such as these, but sufficient funding for the Rip and Replace program has never materialized.

Again, the Biden Administration has stepped up and identified a need for $3.1 billion to fully fund the program as a “key national security priority” in its emergency supplemental funding request. It’s a narrative we can all get on-board with: that broadband falls under the umbrella of national security as a whole. American consumers and institutions both benefit from American-built networks and increased protection at home. But communications providers can’t live up to these needs on their own.

As it stands, the responsibility to get affordable, secure connectivity programs across the finish line rests with Congress. Even with a consensus of support for these two programs, the devil is in the details of how to make the price tags palatable to enough policymakers on Capitol Hill. The key is ensuring that any changes preserve the widespread efficacy of the program that has made it popular so far.

For example, Congress could cut the cost of the ACP by limiting the additional Tribal funding to rural Tribal lands. Any such change should be grounded in an evaluation of existing need in urban areas, but could be an opportunity to ensure funds are being directed to areas of greatest need. And Congress should consider indexing the ACP to inflation. The high inflation of recent years has wreaked havoc on the budgets of consumers—and inflation-proofing the program would ensure that broadband remains affordable for all Americans even should inflation come back.

As for Rip-and-Replace, those of us urging for more funds could concede putting safeguards in place to ensure the money is being used for its intended purpose – the kind of compromise needed to get such policies across the finish line

These are just some ideas as we head into the final funding fight. Not everyone is going to be on the same page on what is and isn’t working best, but shared success starts by recognizing that we all have the same endgame. Congress must ensure that adequate funding for the ACP and Rip and Replace program are included in any year-end spending package. We have an all-too-rare opportunity to win the race for high-tech dominance—we just need to provide the resources.

Kate Forscey is a contributing fellow for the Digital Progress Institute and principal and founder of KRF Strategies LLC. She has served as senior technology policy advisor for Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo and policy counsel at Public Knowledge. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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NTIA Confirms Licensed-by-Rule May Apply for BEAD Funding

The move is a win for wireless providers, who have been pushing the NTIA on the issue.



Photo of telecom towers by Andrew Hart.

WASHINGTON, November 17, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has moved to confirm some wireless technology will be included in its $42.5 billion broadband grant program. 

The agency clarified it will define fixed wireless broadband provided through “licensed-by-rule” spectrum as reliable. That makes providers using that spectrum eligible for funding if fiber is too expensive, and protects them from overbuilding by other projects under the program.

The move is a win for wireless providers, who have been pushing the NTIA to move on the issue since it released the notice of funding opportunity for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program in 2022.

When the BEAD guidelines were first published, they only marked broadband provided via licensed spectrum – frequency bands designated by the Federal Communications Commission for use by a single provider – as reliable broadband. 

That meant areas receiving broadband through only unlicensed spectrum – bands set aside for shared use – would be open for BEAD-funded projects from other providers. This is still the case under the clarified rules.

The original guidelines would also put systems like the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in a gray zone. The CBRS uses a tiered license system, with government users, priority license holders, and general users sharing 150 megahertz of spectrum. Each tier gets preference over the one below it, meaning a general access user cannot, for example, interfere with a government system.

Some broadband providers use that spectrum on a general access basis to provide internet service. They were initially marked in the FCC’s broadband data with the same code as fully licensed spectrum, 71. But when the FCC added in January a new technology code specific to licensed-by-rule spectrum, 72, it became unclear how the technology would be treated by the BEAD program.

The NTIA cleared up any confusion on November 9, issuing an updated version of its FAQs specifying the new technology code would be treated as reliable broadband, and thus both eligible for BEAD dollars and protected from overbuilding. 

The agencies did not go so far as to comment on the merits of the technology, though, saying in its new FAQ section that it would treat licensed-by-rule as reliable because it was originally classified under 71, with fully licensed spectrum.

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