NTIA Approves Delaware Initial Proposal, Volume 1

The state will begin accepting challenges to government broadband data 'within the next few weeks.'

NTIA Approves Delaware Initial Proposal, Volume 1
Delaware Broadband Office Executive Director Roddy Flynn.

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2024 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has approved Volume 1 of Delaware’s proposal for implementing the agency’s flagship broadband program.

“We’re pleased that NTIA has approved Volume 1 of Delaware’s BEAD proposal and excited to continue moving forward with these efforts,” said Roddy Flynn,

Delaware Broadband Office executive director. “Making high-speed internet accessible for all Delawareans has been a top priority for Gov. John Carney. We are proud to be one of the fastest moving states, and with the support of the federal investment from BEAD we are on track to become the first to be fully-connected.”

The Infrastructure Act’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program makes money available to states and territories to expand broadband infrastructure, of which Delaware was allocated $107 million. States finished submitting their initial proposals for implementing the program on December 27, and the NTIA is now in the process of reviewing those proposals.

Two-step process for each state

They come in two volumes. Volume 1 details how states plan to accept and process challenges to government data on broadband availability. The Federal Communications Commission’s map, updated through its own challenge process, was used to determine relative need and make state-level allocations, but states are required under BEAD rules to field challenges on a local level to get a more accurate picture of which homes and businesses lack adequate internet access.

Virginia, Kansas, and Montana have also had Volume 1 approved, while Louisiana remains the only state to receive approval on both volumes. Volume 2 outlines plans for scoring applications and awarding grants under the program.

With its Volume 1 given the go-ahead, Delaware is free to kick off its challenge process, which the state’s broadband office said in an email it plans to do “within the next few weeks.” Like almost every other state, Delaware will be adopting the model challenge process created by the NTIA.

Challenges can allege that current data on things like the internet speed, technology type, latency, and data caps available at a location is inaccurate. They can only be submitted by nonprofits, municipal governments, and internet service providers, meaning eligible challengers must source evidence of these inaccuracies from their communities or, in the case of providers, internal plans and network management systems.

Delaware is making optional modifications outlined in the model process. It will designate any area served only by DSL – digital subscriber line – technology as “underserved,” and thus eligible for BEAD-funded projects, regardless of what speed the provider advertises. The option was included in the model to phase out copper telephone wires in favor of more future-proof broadband technologies like fiber-optic cable.

In a change from the public draft posted last year, the state’s NTIA-approved plan shows it will also be using the optional area and MDU, or multiple dwelling unit, challenges. Under these rules, if six locations in a census block group or 10 percent of the units in an apartment building challenge the same provider’s technology or coverage, the provider must provide evidence that they serve the entire block group or building as reported in government data.

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