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Virginia and Louisiana Each Release BEAD Implementation Plans, Volume Two

Outlines subgrant processes and application scoring criteria.



Photo of Tamarah Holmes

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2023 – Virginia became the first state to release volume two of its Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program for public comment last week, followed closely by Louisiana on Friday.  

The two states seem to be in a contest for “first in the nation” status in implementation of the signature program $42.5 billion program for broadband infrastructure under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Louisiana was the first state to publicly release its five-year and digital equity plans in May and which released it initial proposal volume two on Friday. Many states are looking to Virginia and Louisiana to pave the way forward in designing BEAD program subgrants and answer questions on how to allocate broadband serviceable locations and how to score applications. 

Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Virginia’s state broadband officer, has said that the state is on an accelerated timeline for deployment of EBAD funds. It was the first to release the first volume of its initial proposal, due within 180 days of receiving allocation announcements in late June.  

Initial proposal volume one outlines how the state will run their state challenge process, which builds on the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map. Volume two details the state’s subgrant program. Once approved, states will have access to at least 20 percent of allocated funds. 

Virginia’s initial proposal, volume two, outlined the state’s vision for closing the digital divide, addressing adoption issues and enhancing economic growth and job creation. It hopes to complete construction of BEAD funded projects by 2027 and 2028 and increase adoption of the federal broadband subsidy program American Connectivity Program and invest all BEAD money by the end of 2024. 

The state’s selection process for BEAD will begin accepting pre-applications form applicants over a 60-day period. Pre-applications must include high level information about the applicant and a statement of qualification for building broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state.  

After the pre application submission deadline, Virginia will publish defined application areas to conflict project areas so that no two applicants are proposing to serve the same locations. Applicants will be required to propose to serve all locations in an application area when submitting applications, “the Office of Broadband will not entertain proposals which do not seek to provide broadband access to all locations within a defined application area.” 

Full applications are due 90 days prior the publishing of application areas, which the state office will review and announce. It will also publish a timeline of the process on the office website.  

Scoring for BEAD applications will be 45 percent the most cost-efficient proposal, evaluated by the total funding requested to provide broadband access to a defined application area. 20 percent of the score will be based on affordability, referring the applicant’s commitment to provide the most affordable total price to customer for 1 Gigabit symmetrical speed. If the service package is at or below $100 per month, the applicant will receive full credit for this section. 

Fair labor practices will take up 10 percent of project scoring. Applicants must demonstrate plans to comply with federal labor and employment laws or produce a record of compliance to these laws. Speed to deployment consists of 5 percent of the score in which providers are scored based on the timeline they produce. The remaining 20 percent is given to local and tribal coordination efforts. 

“It is firmly expected that funding available under the BEAD program will address all unserved, underserved and community anchor institutions that lack broadband access,” read Virginia’s plan. 

Louisiana emphasizes a ‘sense of urgency’

Louisiana’s initial proposal volume two draft outlined that its goal is to provide reliable internet to all residents with a “sense of urgency.” Accordingly, the state will be looking for funded projects to be constructed and executed in the next five years. 

The state differs from Virginia in the way it plans to execute its subgrant process and score project applications. Although it will organize the eligible locations in the state into a set of predefined areas, prospective subgrantees will have “wide flexibility” to define their proposed project areas, Louisiana proposes. Proposals can be submitted in the form of groups of project areas as defined by the state. 

Higher cost locations will be paired with more desirable eligible locations within each designated area to ensure that providers are equally as competitive for these hard-to-reach areas. 

ConnectLA will release pre-qualification requirements to interested prospective subgrantees as well as a list of proposed predefined areas, after which subgrantees can provide required financial, operational, managerial and technical qualifications. Prospective subgrantees will be notified after this window whether they have been deemed qualified to participate in the program. They will then submit round one applications.  

Applications will be analyzed to identify any overlap between applications. Any project that brings fiber to the home that does not overlap with any other application will be awarded at the funding level requested, read the proposal. Round two applications will then commence.  

Louisiana proposes to rate applications on a point system. Out of a score of 200 possible points, projects will be awarded based on the percentage of maximum available funds requested for a total project area and the percentage of improvement over reference service pricing. It will rank out of 100 possible points a holistic score on fair labor practices based on compliance record. 

Additionally, it plans to allocate points to an applicant for enforceable deployment plans faster than 48 months, including economically challenged areas, committing to designated areas that lack resiliency infrastructure, affirmative support from tribal and local stakeholders. It will provide 50 points for fiber to the home projects.  

Scoring varies significantly from Virginia’s plan. But both prioritize meeting unserved needs, fair labor practices and affordability. Initial proposals are open for a 30-day comment period. 

Contributing Reporter 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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BEAD Could Spur Private Investment in Network Expansion: Experts

BEAD efforts to stimulate private investment may hinge upon the availability of the Affordable Connectivity Program.



Connect Humanity's Brian Vo at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2023 – Federal and state broadband grants can serve as catalysts for other sources of funding, experts said at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit on Friday.

The $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is providing an unprecedented amount in federal funds for expanding broadband infrastructure, but some states have estimated their allocations will fall short of the amount needed to get high-speed internet to all of their residents. 

For Steve Coran, an attorney at Lerman Senter and counsel for WISPA, the trade group for fixed wireless internet providers, previous funding programs – the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, known as RDOF, and the Connect America Fund, or CAF – are a source of hope. The certainty of federal funds, he said, has helped many of his clients secure private investments to serve rural areas.

Using that certainty “to generate additional capital investment is, I think, an underappreciated aspect of the RDOF and CAF programs,” he said.

Willie Heflin, managing director of investment firm Kinetic Ventures, said his experience investing in smaller internet service providers confirmed this. He pointed to a provider who received $187 million over 10 years from RDOF and was able to raise an additional $240 million from equity investors, including Kinetic Ventures.

“They were able to really build a company and provide services for people who weren’t getting it before,” he said.

Federally subsidized projects can also spur network expansion by making it cheaper and easier for communities to connect to nearby infrastructure, filling some of the holes left by funding programs, said Brian Vo, chief investment officer at Connect Humanity.

The extent to which BEAD projects will be able to stimulate private investment will hinge on the availability of affordability funds like the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to Blair Levin, an analyst at New Street Research and former executive director of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan.

“The single biggest delta for the economic models that will drive deployment in rural areas is whether the ACP is funded,” he said. “If it is, that makes the economics a lot easier. And if it’s not, it makes them a lot harder.”

The $14 billion program, established with the 2021 Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, provides monthly internet subsidies of $30 for low-income households and $75 for residents of Tribal lands. It is set to dry up as early as April 2024, with no clear path to refunding.

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

Already a Broadband Breakfast Club member? Watch the videos!

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State Broadband Officers Outline BEAD Implementation Efforts

Broadband heads from 5 states listed community outreach, mapping, and program deadlines as top priorities for BEAD.



State broadband officers from Arkansas, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2023 – State broadband leaders addressed on Friday their key areas of focus as they look to allocate billions in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grants.

The conversation took place at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit, along with panels of other federal grant program officials, service providers, and investors. The $42.5 billion program is getting under way, with states releasing their initial proposals for implementing it and hearing public comments. Those proposals are due to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27.

Community outreach

Broadband heads cited engaging with communities – especially around challenges to broadband map data and fostering internet adoption – as being essential to the success of the program.

In New Jersey, broadband office leader Valarry Bullard and her team organized a listening tour. They go to churches and community centers to explain how high-capacity internet can play a role in people’s lives and local programs, without, she emphasized, jargon or acronyms.

“You kind of meet people where they’re at, you know?” she said.

Arkansas broadband director Glen Howie said his team went to all 75 counties in the state to explain how mapping challenges will work and work with counties to set up local broadband committees.

“You go into a county and you tell folks they have an opportunity to challenge their internet availability, they get fired up,” he said.

Mapping and data

As part of their proposals to the NTIA, states are required to outline a process for accepting challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s map of broadband coverage. That map, now on its third iteration, is based on coverage reported by internet service providers, which is widely considered to be overstated.

Those map challenges will be crucial, both for BEAD and other federal broadband programs, the panel said. 

“It’s the foundation of all of our programs. We spend a huge amount of time on mapping,” said Angie Bailey, North Carolina’s head broadband officer. “We can’t do this work without strong, location-level mapping.”

In Maine, Andrew Butcher and the Maine Connectivity Authority have been investing in broadband mapping efforts for years, he said. A parallel mapping process to the FCC’s has helped them allocate previous broadband funds and confirm coverage reported by providers.

“It has allowed us to have a data-driven conversation, as opposed to a policy of dibs,” he said. “We want to understand where there’s service and where there’s not.”


Deadlines, both for submitting initial proposals and awarding subgrants, are on broadband leaders’ minds. Those initial proposals are being submitted in two parts, and states have one year from the approval of part II to award their entire BEAD allocations.

That has Howie’s office in Arkansas worried about completing the challenge process, grant awards, and state rulemaking before the deadline

“The one year, arbitrary timeline that we’re all under at the moment is a huge concern for us,” he said.

Taking time on the initial proposal deadlines is helping states with smaller and newer broadband offices, like Bullard’s office in New Jersey, she said, learn from other states and prepare for the task ahead of them.

“Our plan will be submitted December 27, probably at 11:59,” she said. “It’s giving us some more time for that investment. We’re learning more about our counties… we’re connecting with our community anchor institutions.” 

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

Already a Broadband Breakfast Club member? Watch the videos!

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Michigan Island Asks FCC to Require Fiber for Some Carriers

Missing out on BEAD-funded fiber could ‘materially impair’ the Beaver Island’s ability to compete, a local committee argued.



Photo of Beaver Island from the Beaver Island Boat Company.

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2023 – A small Michigan island, Beaver Island, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to require broadband carriers receiving legacy federal funds to lay fiber-optic cable, or face competition from other providers.

The 55-square mile island is the largest in Lake Michigan and had a population of 616, according to the 2021 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Beaver Island’s Joint Telecommunications Advisory Committee made the request in a September 18 filing to the FCC asking that the commission reconsider its adoption of the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or Enhanced ACAM. That model updates the previous allocation of federal money from the Universal Service Fund to internet providers in rural areas.

The model makes $13.5 billion available through 2028. It allows carriers to continue receiving funding if they upgrade or continue to provide service at 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) upload by 20 Mbps download – regardless of the technology they use to do so.

This, the island’s committee says, will prevent the island from being reached with fiber-optic cable, the highest capacity, most future-proof broadband technology. The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, established in 2021, allocates $42.5 billion for states to expand broadband infrastructure, but disqualifies areas already served by federal funding.

Michigan’s broadband office estimated its portion BEAD funding could provide fiber-based internet to every location in the state currently receiving less than 100 * 20 Mbps service. That covers all of Beaver Island. But the island expects its providers will take the Enhanced ACAM  money and update their older, copper-based equipment to meet speed requirements rather than compete at auction for BEAD grants to build fiber.

“Rather than assuring [sic] those areas affected by the Order will receive adequate service,” the filing reads, referring to the commission’s official adoption of the new model on September 1, “the Order instead all but guarantees they will receive a service that will quickly become outdated.”

The committee  said in its filing that in order for an Enhanced ACAM recipient to prevent an area from being eligible for BEAD funding, it should be required by the FCC to use fiber.

Providers have until September 29 to accept or deny Enhanced ACAM funding.

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