NTIA Is Using Federal Program Officers as Safety Net for State Broadband Leaders

The NTIA’s resources for funding applications help state broadband officers manage their their BEAD programs.

NTIA Is Using Federal Program Officers as Safety Net for State Broadband Leaders
Photo of Greg Conte from the Texas Broadband Office

HOUSTON, May 4, 2023 – States should rely on their federal program officer assigned by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration as a guide for state broadband leaders as they help guide subgrantees through the application process for federal funds, said broadband leaders at the Broadband Communities Summit here on Tuesday.

As the administrator of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, the NTIA is using federal program officers as a guide for state offices as they have applied for grants, developing state plans, and are building their state-level broadband programs.

One federal leader is assigned to each state to share NTIA priorities and best practices and discuss emerging policy issues.

The NTIA also provides a network – the State Broadband Leaders Network – that connects state broadband leaders to a forum in which states can talk among themselves and learn from each other.

Greg Conte

, director of the Texas Broadband Development Office, said that members of the state leaders’ network are our “best resource.”

The network is “tremendously helpful,” he said. States can see and replicate the creative solutions from other states.

Texas also has weekly calls with its NTIA officer to provide updates, discuss ideas, and receive on how to execute its plan.

Successfully implementing the BEAD program will take a lot of coordination, said David Lehman, program manager at Louisiana’s state broadband office, ConnectLA. Each state is facing different barriers to deployment, agreed the panelists, and state broadband leaders can help navigate these unique challenges.

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The BEAD program is unique among other federal grant programs because it will be the state’s responsibility to administer the funds. “The states know better about what’s going on in their state than the federal government knows about what’s going on in their state,” said Jennifer Harris, NTIA’s federal program officer for Texas.

The has elected to give states the flexibility to design programs that work for their state while providing federal support to guide and direct the projects, she said. Harris works not only to help grantees but also to engage stakeholders and report about the program’s progress to the NTIA.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Greg Conte, Texas broadband leader, called federal program officers the “best resource.” He actually said that the state broadband leaders’ network was the “best resource.” The story has been corrected.

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