In a First, Louisiana Receives NTIA Approval of Both BEAD Initial Proposals

Louisiana is taking a major step’ forward on internet access, said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

In a First, Louisiana Receives NTIA Approval of Both BEAD Initial Proposals
Photo of ConnectLA Executive Director Veneeth Iyengar by Don Kadai from the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2023 – Louisiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to have volume two of its broadband grant proposal approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

States are required to submit in two volumes initial proposals for administering their portion of the $42.5 billion allocated under the NTIA’s Broadband Equity,

Access and Deployment program. The two volumes are due December 27.

Louisiana was also the first state to have volume one of its proposal approved. That document outlines how the state plans to accept and process challenges to government data on broadband availability, an effort to get as accurate a picture as possible of which homes and businesses in the states lack adequate internet.

The document approved on Friday details how Louisiana plans to administer grants from its $1.3 billion BEAD allocation. That process can begin after the state finishes using challenges to make its final broadband map, which the state plans to have finished by 2024.

“Louisiana is taking a major step toward ensuring that no one in the state is held back by a lack of Internet access,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Per BEAD rules, Louisiana will now have one year to determine its subgrantees under the program. The state is planning to accept two rounds of applications in that window, according to the approved proposal, with a total timeline of about 7 months from notifying the public to final selection.

Louisiana’s broadband office is expecting its allocation to be enough to get fiber-optic cable, the fastest, most future-proof technology available, to all of the state’s locations without high-speed broadband. The office will allow grant applications using less expensive technologies – even those deemed unreliable by BEAD rules – in an effort to secure commitments for every eligible location in the state.

Applicants that bury their fiber will be favored by the state because of the added resiliency in the event of flooding, a major concern in the flood-prone state. Providers that win grants to deploy wireless towers will also be subject to resiliency requirements like steel reinforcements and backup power sources.

The state is planning to use the money left over after funding infrastructure to increase adoption. Part of that will be spinning up a state-run internet subsidy for low-income households. That subsidy is set to work in tandem with Congress’s Affordable Connectivity Program, but would also provide a safety net in the event the ACP is not refunded. 

Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of the state’s broadband office, said in a statement he and his team feel a sense of urgency in getting BEAD right and spending the state’s $1.3 billion effectively.

“It is this sense of urgency that has made us successful in understanding what people need, which is vital to writing good policy and getting our plans approved,” he said.

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