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A Deep Dive into Allocations Under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program

What’s next for BEAD implementation?



Learn more at the BEAD Implementation Summit

The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program will invest $42.5 billion in high-speed internet across the country. With White House funding announcement on June 26, 2023, state broadband offices have begun to react and release reports on their next steps in the landmark broadband infrastructure measure.

States react to award allocations

The BEAD program is implemented by the Commerce Department and its National Telecommunications and Information Administration allocates funds directly to state broadband offices, which are in charge of developing their own programs and issuing subgrants to qualifying internet service providers. ISPs can include private, public/municipal, or cooperative entities. States have a lot of work to do to prepare for the federal funding coming down the pipeline.

In late 2022, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded BEAD planning grants that funded state processes in developing a five-year action plan for BEAD awards. States have 270 days from the receipt of planning grants to release their five-year plans intended to “provide a foundation for alignment with future initial and final proposals.”

The NTIA has provided states with a five-year action plan template that includes a statement of a clear vision for broadband deployment and digital equity. It outlines goals and objectives that ensure all residents will have access to high-speed internet and empower local municipalities to develop and implement lasting broadband infrastructure across the state or territory.

Additionally, states must list all existing broadband programs or offices, relevant partnerships with stakeholders, and a needs and gaps assessment with obstacles and barriers residents face in connecting to the internet.

State digital equity plans must identify the barriers to digital equity and measurable objectives for documenting and promoting the availability, affordability and accessibility of digital equity programs. They must provide an assessment of how the objectives will impact and interact with other state economic and social goals.

Louisiana was the first state to publicly release its five-year and digital equity plans in May. Since then, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Utah, have released drafts of their five-year plans for public comment. Maine, Michigan, Montana and Utah also released their draft digital equity plans. And Virginia and Louisiana have both released the first volume of their draft BEAD Initial Proposals.

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Read the three reports on BEAD in advance of the BEAD Implementation Summit on September 21, 2023. Register now and receive a copy of each of the three reports!

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Teralyn Whipple, who joined Broadband Breakfast in 2022, studied marketing at Brigham Young University. She has reported extensively on broadband infrastructure, investments and deployment. She has also headed marketing campaigns for several small companies.

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A Hidden Issue Potentially Impacting BEAD Implementation: Pole Attachments

Problems accessing poles could delay fiber builds funded by the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.



The heat that arose over the course of 2022 on the topic of pole attachments shows no signs of abating. Indeed, the rollout of the broadband infrastructure program under the bipartisan infrastructure law may be heightening tensions over the topic.

Now, some experts are claiming that concerns about access to poles could delay fiber builds funded by the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In order to deploy broadband networks, fiber and cable companies must run wires either underground or above ground. Utility poles, the poles that support public utility services such as electricity, are an attractive option to minimize deployment costs and reach every address in a provider’s jurisdiction.

The specific controversy generally centers around the rates that broadband companies seeking to put fiber on utility poles need to pay the owners of the poles, often utilities. Internet companies claim that utility companies place an undue financial burden on attachers, which can hinder builds through the federal grant programs coming down the pipeline.

Utilities often require that new attachers pay the price of pole replacement or else the cost to make the poles ready for new attachments. This financial burden is felt particularly heavily by new entrants that do not have the necessary capital to invest in these poles. In fact, Google Fiber faced these hurdles in Nashville in 2016 when pole attachment permits became hard to acquire and financially burdensome.

Pole attachments differ from pure conduits

Pole attachments differ from conduits, which are structures containing one or more ducts — a single enclosed path for conductors, cables or wire — usually placed in the ground, in which cables or wires may be installed. Service providers may rent conduit, often owned by utilities or other providers, for their broadband networks.

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Read the three reports on BEAD produced in advance of the BEAD Implementation Summit on September 21, 2023. Register now and receive a copy of each of the three reports!

Or – sign up for the Broadband Breakfast Club and receive access to all Premium Content!

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Broadband's Impact

FCC Inspector General Suspects Providers of Improperly Taking Subsidies

The agency’s Office of the Inspector General said providers were still paid for un-enrolled subscribers.



Photo of the FCC's headquarters at 45 L Street NE from the Smith Group.

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2023 – Dozens of mobile broadband providers are likely not complying with federal subsidy rules, the Federal Communications Commission inspector general said in a report on Friday.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides about 20 million low-income households a $30 monthly internet discount. That money is paid by the government to providers giving those households broadband service.

When customers receiving ACP discounts stop using a provider’s broadband service, the provider is required to report that to the FCC so money is only disbursed for active users. Typically, anywhere from a third to one half of an ACP provider’s subscribers will be de-enrolled each month, according to the report from the Office of the Inspector General.

But the OIG said that it found “dozens” of providers report few, if any, of these lost customers, making it likely the providers are taking government subsidies for broadband service they are not providing. It did not name the providers.

“We strongly suspect [the unnamed providers] are not complying with program usage and related de-enrollment rules,” the OIG wrote.

One company repaid the commission almost $50 million after being approached by the OIG. That’s one third of all ACP subsidies the provider received from June 2021 to July 2022.

The OIG released data from five of the suspect providers showing they failed to de-enroll more than three percent of their monthly subscribers, making them and similar providers outliers among ACP providers. One provider had over 1 million subscribers.

The office said in its report that it has gathered additional evidence of the same providers taking ACP money for subscribers who are not using their service. Those investigations are ongoing.

In 2021, the OIG found similar abuses in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, a predecessor to the ACP. The office again found dozens of providers reporting more households with dependent children than existed in several school districts.

In response to the report, the FCC released a public notice directing the Universal Service Administrative Company, the arm of the agency responsible for administering the ACP and other broadband subsidy programs, to strengthen its monitoring around de-enrollment and other requirements.

The ACP, a $14 billion fund set aside by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, is set to dry up in April 2024. There have been repeated calls for Congress to renew the program.

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Experts Suggest Measures to Protect Affordable Connectivity Program at Senate Hearing

Under consideration: Opening the Universal Service Fund to contributions from broadband and Big Tech companies.



WASHINGTON, September 28, 2023 – A broadband association asked Congress last week to open the Universal Service Fund to contributions from broadband and Big Tech revenues to allow the umbrella fund to absorb and support the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The industry is concerned that the $14-billion ACP program, which discounts monthly services for low-income Americans and those on tribal lands, is going to run out of money by early next year. Meanwhile, it is universally agreed that the Universal Service Fund, which includes four high-cost broadband programs, is struggling to maintain its roughly $8-billion annual pace without a diversification of its revenue sources.

Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, told the Communications and Technology subcommittee studying the future of rural broadband on September 21 that Congress could both support the sustainability of the USF and the ACP by forcing contributions from broadband and Big Tech revenues.

The idea is that the extra revenue would solve the USF sustainability question by allowing the fund to continue to support the existing four programs under its purview, while also allowing it to adopt the ACP program, hence removing that program from reliance on Congress for money.

“We can have Congress give the FCC the authorities that it requires to be able to expand the contribution base, integrating the ACP within USF program, and thereby allowing the potentially out of control contribution factor that will potentially bog down the viability and longevity of the Universal Service Fund mechanisms to go down,” Spalter said.

“And in so doing it can expand the contribution base sufficiently to allow not only broadband but importantly the dominant Big Tech companies to participate so that we would effectively fuse the Affordable Connectivity Program with [high-cost program] Lifeline and do so in a way that would actually not require appropriated dollars from Congress.”

The ACP currently has around 21 million Americans signed up, but the FCC says many more are eligible. The commission has been allocating money to outreach groups to market the subsidy program.

While some have argued that the Federal Communications Commission could unilaterally expand the contribution base of the USF, the commission has elected to wait for Congress to make the requisite legislative reforms to give it that authority.

Forcing Big Tech companies, which rely on the internet to deliver their products, has been an idea tossed around by experts and promoted by Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr. Meanwhile, forcing broadband revenues to contribute to the fund has also received good support.

The concern for the ACP program is that the internet service providers rely on the $14 billion to continue to offer discounts.

“With funding set to be depleted early next year, initial notices of service termination could be out during the height of the holiday season in December – that’s a present none of our constituents deserve to receive,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Calif.  

“Poverty is everywhere, but higher in rural America, in our region the reason most people can’t adopt service is due to lack of affordability, this impacts more households than lack of infrastructure alone,” said Sara Nichols, senior planner of the Land of Sky Regional Council of Government.

“It’s a program we simply can’t afford to lose,” added Nichols.

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