Roundup of News Surrounding NTIA’s Notice of Funding for Broadband Infrastructure

Fund disbursement procedures for three new federal broadband programs are now publicly available.

Roundup of News Surrounding NTIA’s Notice of Funding for Broadband Infrastructure
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge.

May 13, 2022 – On Friday morning the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released the Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment Notice of Funding Opportunity.

It outlines fund disbursement procedures for the central broadband program of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and Broadband Breakfast covered the core issues in the BEAD NOFO.

Broadband.Money plans to release an interactive, annotated guide to the NOFO.

NTIA head Alan Davidson’s fireside chat with Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark at the Mountain Connect conference from May 24 to 25 in Keystone, Colorado, represents an opportunity to ask Davidson questions on the large development that is the NOFO’s release. See also “Four themes to watch for in NTIA’s BEAD NOFO.”

Satellite broadband is out of style

Upon NOFO release Telecompetitor reported that the NOFO establishes a category called “reliable broadband service,” and that the NTIA excludes from this category both satellite broadband and fixed wireless that rely entirely on unlicensed spectrum.

Fiber broadband, cable modem/hybrid fiber coax technology, digital subscriber line and fixed wireless using entirely licensed or a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrum all made the cut to be considered reliable.

Telecompetitor reporter Joan Engebretson states:

NTIA released the eagerly awaited notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program early this morning. Rules for the program call for individual states to establish selection criteria and other rules for awarding funding, but those rules must conform to guidelines established by NTIA in the NOFO.

Among those rules: “Priority” broadband projects are those that will “provision service via end-to-end fiber-optic facilities to each end-user premises.” States are directed to award BEAD funding for an area to priority projects unless the cost per location exceeds the extremely high cost per location threshold or for “other valid reasons,” subject to NTIA approval.

“End-to-end fiber networks can be updated by replacing equipment attached to the ends of the fiber-optic facilities, allowing for quick and relatively inexpensive network scaling as compared to other technologies,” wrote NTIA in the NOFO. “Moreover, new fiber deployments will facilitate the deployment and growth of 5G and other advanced wireless services, which rely extensively on fiber for essential backhaul.”

More Notice of Funding Opportunity specifics

Of the $100 million each state is guaranteed under the bipartisan infrastructure bill, up to $5 million may be drawn within three months.

A new NTIA website on program fund disbursement, Internet for All, is up with the NOFO release to kick off grants going out, and a webinar will be hosted on program details every day next week.

The funding document gives clear preference to fiber technology over other modes of broadband.

Providing for underserved individuals remains a key priority of the program, not just tossing service goals for them aside to focus first on unserved individuals considered to have no broadband access at the present.

The NTIA is encouraging states to eliminate or relax existing laws that prohibit municipal broadband networks.

Open access wins in the document, as 10% of the “merit review” process will be based on whether an evaluated project commits to “middle mile infrastructure, in perpetuity, on an open-access basis.

Among the first major deadlines for the program is for letters of intent from states to be received by 11:59 p.m. on July 18, 2022.

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