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States Broadband Offices Outline Plans for Billions in Broadband Funds 

Officials from Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine and New Mexico outline how they are preparing for broadband funding.

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Photo of Thomas Tyler from the Louisiana Broadband Office

KEYSTONE, Colo., June 13, 2022 – Representatives from the state broadband offices of Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine and New Mexico last month at the Mountain Connect conference outlined plans for how they expect to use and distribute billions in upcoming federal dollars.

Louisiana’s state office plans to stretch its funding by structuring the scoring criteria for its grant program to incentivize additional matching funds from grant applicants. When distributing capital project funds, the state received about 170 applications offering 40 percent matching funds on average, with some applicants contributing a match as high as 80 to 90 percent. “We were thrilled to see that by heavily incentivizing the match, it boosted match percentage by an additional 20% of the project,” said Thomas Tyler, deputy director of ConnectLA.

One of the state’s current priorities is building reliance on local businesses. To help achieve this goal, applicants will receive additional points for contracting with a small business or a better-known business, or if the applicant themselves is a small business or better-known business. Another priority of the state is workforce development.

“We have worked with all of our providers to work with our local community and technical college systems, to help identify and structure curriculum in the state to get people trained on how to build these networks and provide services to keep them running. We want to keep these jobs in our state,” said Tyler.

Other ways states are maximizing funds is by weighing the cost-efficiency of using different technologies, encouraging efficiency in the middle-mile, and awarding projects that will result in the most households served.

The scoring criteria state offices are using varies and tends to reflect the state’s development priorities.

The state of New Mexico used eight major criteria to score CPF applicants, according to Sandeep Taxali, program advisor to the Illinois and New Mexico broadband offices. The categories include broadband impact, community participation, financial stability, organizational capability, project radius, cost efficiency, service options, and open access. New Mexico CPF applicants received extra points for incorporating the needs of public safety networks in their designs, including customized letters of support from community members, as well as offering Gigabit service and offering three to four Internet service tiers.

In Idaho, the office is putting effort toward finding in-kind matches that can benefit cities and counties, including waiving permit fees, and streamlining processes, according to Eric Forsch, broadband development manager at Idaho Commerce. “Communities need to have skin in the game, but make sure you’re not financially burdening them with money they don’t really have,” said Forsch.

The states will also use different systems and structures to distribute the funding.

In Maine, the broadband office will be distributing the state’s broadband funds through two public instrumentalities, or quasi-government agencies, according to Peggy Schaffer, executive director of ConnectME. Public instrumentalities have less rigorous requirements on how the state can distribute the funds, which allows the broadband office to move faster and respond more quickly, as money rolls through the system.

Meanwhile in Idaho, CPF and Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment funding will move through the Idaho Broadband Fund administered by the state’s Department of Commerce, while grant approval will fall to Idaho’s Broadband Advisory Board.

In Louisiana, the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity will disperse funds through the state’s competitive grant program, the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program.

The states of New Mexico, Illinois, and Louisiana will be implementing different requirements and scoring criteria before distributing BEAD funding in order to comply with the NTIA program’s provisions.

Contributing Reporter Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide and has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband.

Funding

Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah to Receive Nearly $1 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funds

The states will use their funding through the Capital Projects Fund to connect more than 180,000 homes and businesses.

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WASHINGTON, December 1, 2022 – The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced the approval of broadband projects in an additional six states under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah.

Together, these states will use their funding to connect more than 180,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed internet.

The Capital Projects Fund provides $10 billion to states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments to fund critical capital projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring in response to the public health emergency. In addition to the $10 billion provided by the CPF, many governments are using a portion of their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds toward connecting to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.

“The pandemic upended life as we knew it—from work to school to connecting with friends and family—and exposed the stark inequity in access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in communities across the country in rural, Tribal, and other underrepresented communities,” said Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo. “This funding will lay the foundation for the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet and reduce internet bills for American households and businesses.”

In accordance with Treasury’s guidance, each state’s plan requires service providers to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s new Affordable Connectivity Program.

The Affordable Connectivity Program helps ensure that households can afford the high-speed internet they need for work, school, healthcare, and more by providing a discount of up to $30 per month (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands). Experts estimate that nearly 40% of U.S. households are eligible for the program.

The Administration also commitments from 20 leading internet service providers to offer all ACP-eligible households high-speed, high-quality internet plans for no more than $30 per month. As a result, ACP-eligible households can receive internet access at no cost and can check their eligibility for free internet and sign up at GetInternet.gov.

In addition to requiring funding recipients to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, Treasury’s guidance requires recipients to consider whether the federally funded networks will be affordable to the target markets in their service areas and encourages recipients to require that a federally funded project offer at least one low-cost option at speeds that are sufficient for a household with multiple users.

The following descriptions summarize the six state plans that Treasury approved today:

  • Florida is approved for $248 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 48,400 households and businesses – representing approximately 10% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access. Florida’s award will fund Florida’s Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), a competitive grant program designed to expand last mile broadband access to homes and businesses in rural areas of the state. Funding from CPF will help Florida continue to prioritize fiber-optic networks and projects proposing affordable service. The BIP is designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100 * 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. Florida submitted plans for the remainder of their CPF funds and these applications are currently under review by Treasury.
  • Georgia is approved to receive $250 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 70,000 households and businesses – representing 15% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access. Georgia’s award will fund the Georgia Capital Projects Fund grant program, a competitive grant program that is designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that provide service to areas identified by the state to currently lack access to reliable broadband that can meet or exceed 25 * 3 Mbps, and that adopt practices that support both efficient broadband expansion and community engagement. The Georgia Capital Projects Fund is designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100* 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. Georgia submitted plans for the remainder of their CPF funds and these applications are currently under review by Treasury.
  • Iowa is approved for $152.2 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 18,972 households and businesses – representing approximately 16% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access. Iowa’s award will fund the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Program, a competitive grant program designed to address inequities in access to broadband throughout the state of Iowa. Using a three-step process, the program combines mapping data, input from communities, and applications from service providers. Funding from CPF will help Iowa bring broadband service to areas identified having a critical need for broadband. Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Program is designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100 * 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. The plan submitted to Treasury and being approved today represents 100% of the state’s total allocation under the CPF program.
  • Minnesota is approved for $44 million for broadband infrastructure. Minnesota’s award will fund two additional broadband infrastructure programs: Minnesota’s Line Extension Program, a competitive grant program designed to address the needs of individuals who are located near infrastructure for high-quality broadband service but where the cost of the last mile connection is a barrier; and the Low-Density Pilot Program, a competitive grant program that provides financial resources for new and existing providers to invest in building broadband infrastructure in low-density areas of the state that currently lack high-speed internet. Funding from CPF will help Minnesota continue its efforts to provide reliable internet access to predominately rural locations previously facing cost barriers. Both programs are designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100 * 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. Minnesota submitted plans for the remainder of their CPF funds and these applications are currently under review by Treasury.
  • Missouri is approved for $196.7 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 37,979 households and businesses – representing approximately 8% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access. Missouri’s award will fund the Missouri Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, a competitive grant program designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects in areas that currently lack access to high-speed, reliable broadband. Funding from CPF will help Missouri bring service to areas where broadband infrastructure projects would not be feasible without assistance. The Missouri Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program is designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100 * 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. The plan submitted to Treasury and being approved today represents 100% of the state’s total allocation under the CPF program.
  • Utah is approved for $10 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 3,080 households and businesses – representing approximately 5% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access. Utah’s award will fund the Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program (Gap Networks Grant Program), a competitive grant program designed to address gaps in broadband infrastructure where reliable broadband service is currently unavailable. Funding from CPF will help Utah continue its efforts to bridge the state’s remaining digital divide. The Gap Networks Grant Program is designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100 * 100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. Utah submitted plans for the remainder of their CPF funds and these plans are currently under review by Treasury.
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Florida, Mississippi, S.D. and Utah Awarded Broadband Planning Grants

‘This award will provide access to those communities who have for too long went without affordable internet connectivity.’

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Photo of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss,  by Andrew Harnick

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday that Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota and Utah were awarded their first broadband planning grants under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Florida was awarded $7.4 million, Mississippi with $5.8 million, South Dakota with $3.1 million and Utah with $5.6 million.

“I take great pride in knowing that this award will provide access to those communities who have for too long went without affordable internet connectivity, ” said Mississippi’s Rep. Bennie Thompson.

This is part of the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program and Digital Equity Act program of IIJA with the goal to deploy high-speed internet service networks and develop digital skills training programs.

$65 billion will be invested into expanding affordable high-speed broadband under the infrastructure law.

NTIA launched high-speed internet grant programs to build high-speed internet infrastructure across the country, create low-cost internet service options and address digital equity. The grants for 56 eligible entities are expected to be announced on a rolling basis.

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Small ISPs Face Economic, Incumbent Bundling Headwinds: CoBank Economist

CoBank also mentions that Space X and T-Mobile will begin testing a satellite service by the end of 2023.

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Drew Clark, CoBank's Jeff Johnston, Capital Partners' Angelo Lacroix and Andrew Semenak of Pinpoint Capital Management

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2022 — An economist at a bank that provides loans for rural infrastructure projects said this month on a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event that smaller internet service providers are likely to face challenges on two fronts in the near future: getting financing for fiber projects in a down economy and from the service-bundling prowess of the larger national players.

With economic weakness forecast in the next 12 to18 months, banks will become more hesitant to lend, said Jeff Johnston, lead economist at CoBank, a $170 million cooperative bank that provides lending and private equity services for rural infrastructure projects by smaller providers. That’s despite an unprecedented amount of federal funding, including $42.5 billion from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act still to come.

Johnston also warned about larger providers taking up market share in certain regions from the smaller providers because they can bundle services. In a fourth quarter financial report in October 2022, Johnston warned local broadband fixed-wireless providers that incumbents like Verizon and T-Mobile are ramping up smartphone bundle deals with wireless services as a strategy to pry consumers away from smaller providers.

Drew Clark, CoBank’s Jeff Johnston, Capital Partners’ Angelo Lacroix and Andrew Semenak of Pinpoint Capital Management

“Broadband operators located in smaller and/or rural cities could face competitive threats if the national operators decide to target these markets,” the report said. “Their fixed wireless market strategy is largely a function of where they have excess capacity in their networks. We do not see standalone fixed wireless operators as much of a threat to fixed line broadband operators as they don’t have a smartphone bundle to offer, which dilutes their value proposition in markets where fixed line broadband already exists.”

Angelo Lacroix, investment director at Capital Partners, added that “we’re not so concerned about customers falling away because they cannot pay the bills; it’s more about losing customers to competitors.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 12 Noon ET – How to Value Your Fiber Company

The United States is currently in the midst of what can only be described as a fiber boom. Wireless and 5G technologies aren’t going away, but stringing fiber deeper into neighborhoods is necessary. And because of this understanding, fiber businesses can become very valuable. In this special session of Broadband Breakfast Live Online, we’ll explore the important question of how to value your fiber business.

Panelists:

  • Andrew Semenak, Managing Director, Pinpoint Capital Advisors
  • Angelo Lacroix, Investment Director, DIF Capital Partners
  • Jeff Johnston, Lead Communications Economist, CoBank
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Andrew Semenak has over 20 years experience in corporate finance and investment banking with large global firms. He is the founding partner of Pinpoint Capital Advisors and has advised on numerous domestic and international capital raisings and mergers and acquisition transactions. Andrew’s relationships span leading small and mid market companies, private equity and infrastructure funds, pension plans, sovereign wealth funds, family offices, endowments and insurance companies.

Angelo Lacroix is an Investment Director covering core plus and value add infrastructure investments in North America for DIF Capital Partners with a strong emphasis on digital investments like fiber and data centers. DIF Capital Partners is a leading midmarket private equity infrastructure investor with over 14bn of assets under management. Angelo is a CFA Charterholder with over a decade of transaction experience and has previous global work experience at KPMG Corporate Finance as well as Macquarie Capital.

Jeff Johnston has over 25 years of telecom experience that includes 11 years as a Wall Street analyst covering tech media and telecom, and 13 years of product management and business development experience for telecom operators. He is currently a lead communications economist in the Knowledge Exchange research division for CoBank, a $160 billion commercial bank that finances rural infrastructure (communications, power and energy) and agriculture.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC, the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of the State Broadband Initiative in Illinois. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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