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New Mexico Releases BEAD Proposal Volume Two

The state plans to get fiber to up to 90 percent of its unserved locations.

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Photo of Chimney Rock, New Mexico by Pedro Szekely.

New Mexico released volume two of its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment initial proposal for public comment on November 14.

States are required to submit their proposals, which come in two volumes, to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27. Volume one details how states will ground-truth broadband coverage data, and volume two outlines states’ plans for administering grant programs with their BEAD funds.

The state’s broadband office is planning to make available all options laid out in the NTIA’s recent letter of credit waiver. 

Before the waiver’s release on November 1, subgrantees under BEAD were required to obtain a letter of credit for 25 percent of their total project costs. That ties up cash, which advocates and broadband providers said would keep smaller companies from participating.

Under the new rules, states can use less capital-intensive measures like performance bonds and reimbursement milestones to ensure the financial viability of a project. 

New Mexico does not expect to deploy broadband to all of its un/underserved locations and anchor institutions with BEAD funds. But the state’s volume two says the broadband office expects 80 to 90 percent of unserved locations, homes and businesses with internet slower than 25 * 3 Mbps, can be served with fiber-optic cable through the program.

In the event funds are left over after a single round of grant applications, the state is planning to negotiate directly with providers on expanding their project areas. If that fails or funds are still available, the state is planning to administer subsequent competitive grant processes.

Once that first round of grant applications are received, the state will set its high-cost threshold, the price at which BEAD rules allow the state to consider non-fiber technologies. If the first round results in viable plans to serve all unserved locations with fiber, the state may decline to set this threshold outright. The broadband office is planning to negotiate with bidders to get per-location costs below the threshold before awarding money to non-fiber projects.

On the climate front, wildfires will be the biggest hazard to new infrastructure. BEAD-funded projects across New Mexico will have to take standard precautions like redundant routes, according to the state’s volume two.

Comments on the plan are due by December 14.

Reporter Jake Neenan, who covers broadband infrastructure and broadband funding, is a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School. Previously, he reported on state prison conditions in New York and Massachusetts. He is also a devoted cat parent.

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Missouri’s BEAD Initial Proposal, Volume Two

The state is unsure if any of its $1.7 billion allocation will be left over after funding new infrastructure.

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Photo of the Missouri River by Robert Stinnett.

Missouri released a draft volume two of its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment initial proposal on November 15.

It was part of a wave of states and territories that began seeking public comment on their drafts in recent weeks. All 56 have now done so.

After a 30-day comment period, states and territories are required to submit their proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27. The proposals come in two volumes: volume one details how states will ground-truth broadband coverage data, and volume two outlines states’ plans for administering grant programs with their BEAD funds.

The Missouri Broadband Office is “not yet able to determine” whether it will have any of its $1.7 billion in BEAD money left over after funding infrastructure projects.

The state is planning to administer two rounds of funding, something the state’s broadband director BJ Tanksley has flagged as being potentially difficult given BEAD’s one year timeframe for grant awards. The MBO said in the proposal a “sub-round” might be necessary if some undeserved and underserved areas receive no applications, and the state might seek an extension from the NTIA.

Missouri is looking to release multiple “advisory figures” for its high-cost threshold, the price at which fiber becomes expensive enough for the state to consider other technologies not favored by BEAD. Cost modeling data will be used for an initial figure before the first round of grant applications, and the number will be updated based on the applications the state receives in each round.

The state will also be using the NTIA’s updated financing guidance, which gives states more options to ensure the financial viability of a project. The new guidance makes room for performance bonds and reimbursement milestones, which tie up less money than the 25 percent letter of credit required by initial BEAD rules.

The agency made the change on November 1 after months of pushback from advocates and lawmakers, who warned small providers could be edged out by the letter of credit.

The public comment period for Missouri’s volume two is open until December 15.

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Alabama’s BEAD Initial Proposal, Volumes One and Two

The state is asking for a waiver to open up RDOF areas to BEAD applications.

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Photo of an Alabama field, used with permission.

Alabama released a draft of its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment initial proposal on November 14.

It was part of a wave of states and territories that began seeking public comment on their drafts in recent weeks. All 56 have now done so.

After a 30-day comment period, states and territories are required to submit their proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27. The proposals come in two volumes: volume one details how states will ground-truth broadband coverage data, and volume two outlines states’ plans for administering grant programs with their BEAD funds.

Volume one

The state is planning to adopt the NTIA’s model challenge process to accept and adjudicate claims of incorrect broadband data. The Federal Communications Commission’s largely provider-reported coverage map was used to allocate BEAD money, but is not considered accurate enough to determine which specific locations lack broadband.

Local governments, nonprofits, and broadband providers are able to submit those challenges on behalf of consumers under the model process. 

Alabama is also electing to use one of the NTIA’s optional modifications to the model process. The state’s broadband office will designate all homes and businesses receiving broadband from copper telephone lines as “underserved” – and thus eligible for BEAD-funded infrastructure. The move is an effort to replace older technology with the higher speed fiber-optic cable favored by the program.

The state will administer two optional challenge types the NTIA laid out: area and MDU challenges. States are not required to use these, but most are planning to do so.

An area challenge is initiated if six or more locations in a census block group challenge the same technology from the same provider with sufficient evidence. The provider is then required to show evidence they provide the reported service to every location in the census block group, or the entire area will be opened up to BEAD funds.

An MDU, or multiple dwelling unit, challenge is triggered when three units or 10 percent of the total units in an apartment building challenge a provider’s service. It again flips the burden of proof, requiring providers to prove they give the reported service for the entire building, not just units that submit challenges.

Alabama’s broadband office is requesting a waiver from the NTIA’s rule around enforceable commitments from other funding programs. The state wants areas set to get broadband from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to be considered unserved for the purposes of BEAD.

That fund, the state argues, has a deployment deadline too far in the future – six to eight years to BEAD’s four years – and is too prone to defaults to be a reliable alternative to BEAD.

Volume two

Alabama does not expect to have any of its $1.4 billion BEAD allocation left over after funding broadband infrastructure.

The state is planning to award that money in a single round of grant applications, but may administer a second, according to its proposal.

Like most states, Alabama won’t be setting a high-cost threshold before looking over all BEAD grant applications. That’s the price point at which the state will look to non-fiber technologies to serve the most expensive, hardest to reach areas.

Alabama’s broadband office is seeking comment on using the NTIA’s updated financing guidance, but plans on implementing it.

That updated guidance allows options which tie up less capital, like performance bonds. BEAD rules initially required a 25 percent letter of credit, which advocates and lawmakers warned could prevent small providers from participating in the program. 

The public comment period for Alabama’s initial proposal is open until December 14.

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Arkansas’s BEAD Initial Proposal, Volume Two

The state is planning to expand its fiber technician training program after funding infrastructure projects.

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Photo of the Arkansas River by Robert Thigpen.

Arkansas released a draft volume two of its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment initial proposal on November 14.

It was part of a wave of states and territories that began seeking public comment on drafts in recent weeks. All 56 have now done so.

After a 30 day comment period, states and territories are required to submit their proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27. The proposals come in two volumes: volume one details how states will ground-truth broadband coverage data, and volume two outlines states’ plans for administering grant programs with their BEAD funds.

Arkansas expects its roughly $1 billion BEAD allocation will be enough to serve the estimated 190,000 homes and businesses in the state without adequate internet. 

The state is planning to have at least $20 million left over after funding infrastructure projects. The bulk of that will be used to expand the Arkansas Fiber Academy, a state-run fiber technician training program. The state said in its proposal the expansion will help address a shortage of the skilled workers necessary for deploying fiber-optic cable.  

The Arkansas broadband office will be soliciting two rounds of BEAD grant bids from broadband providers. The first round will be used to identify “Buy It Now” bids, applications that score enough points on the BEAD rubric to be tentatively granted over competing bids, and a minimum point threshold, above which applications will be tentatively granted in the absence of competing bids.

Arkansas will also be using the NTIA’s updated financing guidance, which gives states more options to ensure the financial viability of a project. The new guidance makes room for performance bonds and reimbursement milestones, which tie up less money than the 25 percent letter of credit required by initial BEAD rules.

The agency made the change on November 1 after months of pushback from advocates and lawmakers, who warned small providers could be edged out by the letter of credit.

Like most states, Arkansas will only set a high-cost threshold after both tranches of BEAD applications. That’s the cost of fiber at which the state will start accepting projects using other technologies. The state says it only plans to create such a threshold if it’s necessary to reach all unserved and underserved areas. 

The public comment period for Arkansas’s volume two is open until December 14.

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