Infrastructure Playbook Recommends Focus on Projects that Endure

The playbook was discussed in a webinar Friday afternoon.

Infrastructure Playbook Recommends Focus on Projects that Endure
Photo of Fiber Broadband Association president and CEO Gary Bolton by Ben Kahn

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2022 – An infrastructure playbook discussed on a Friday webinar recommends state broadband offices ensure their plans for infrastructure bill grant money are specifically equipped to create long-lasting broadband projects.

The authors of the playbook — trade groups Fiber Broadband Association and NTCA the Rural Broadband Association – encourage thinking beyond a timeline of just five years in looking at how needs may evolve for applicants to programs funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program. The playbook was released late last month.

Discussion about funding from the historic $65 billion allocated from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act have drawn recommendations from industry to focus on fiber because of its scalability to higher capacity and internet speeds in the future, while others have espoused the virtues of alternative technologies like wireless.

One step for longevity the playbook suggests is applying a scoring mechanism to determine prioritization of projects funded by the legislation.

Those were among key recommendations from the playbook, which included supporting local broadband champions, leveraging local expertise from providers and state provider associations, considering whether existing resourcing assumptions will be useful if previous funding rounds have been run, ensuring there is sufficient labor in a state to deploy networks and considering the economics of matching requirements.

The playbook, commissioned by tech consulting firm Cartesian, also includes detailed analysis of the infrastructure bill, a rationale for the various recommendations they give for organization of state broadband offices, BEAD applications, grant program design and administration of those grant programs. It also highlighted chronic understaffing of broadband offices, especially prevalent right now, as reasons for targeting them as an area of improvement.

The NTIA, an agency of the Commerce department tasked with delivering $42.5 billion from the infrastructure bill to the states, continues to hold technical assistance webinars for applications to bill programs and listening sessions to hear suggestions for how federal funds can best be deployed.

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