The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is a significant initiative from the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It was established as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by Congress in 2021 and is intended to help address the digital divide in the United States by making broadband access more equitable and widely available.
The BEAD program is allocated $42.5 billion in federal funding to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country, with a particular focus on unserved and underserved areas. These are locations where broadband service is either completely absent or not as robust as it should be, typically in rural or low-income areas.
The program aims to improve broadband access, affordability, and adoption, with a focus on reaching 100% broadband coverage throughout the United States. The program is structured in such a way that state, local, and tribal governments, as well as other eligible entities, can apply for funding to support their specific broadband initiatives.
This new initiative represents a significant increase in federal funding for broadband deployment, and its establishment recognizes the essential role of broadband in modern life, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic, which emphasized the importance of internet access for work, education, healthcare, and more.
In terms of how the BEAD program differs from previous broadband initiatives, there are several key areas to note:
Scale of Funding
The BEAD program has a significantly larger budget than previous programs, with $42.5 billion allocated. This funding scale is unprecedented and signals a strong commitment from the federal government to address the digital divide.
Local and Regional Focus
The BEAD program involves a more granular, community-focused approach. It requires that applicants coordinate with local and regional bodies to ensure that the broadband networks being deployed align with the specific needs and contexts of the communities they serve.
Emphasis on Affordability
An important aspect of the BEAD program is the requirement for grant recipients to provide a low-cost broadband service option, which is designed to ensure that more individuals and families can afford to access broadband services.
Requirements for Detailed Planning
The BEAD program requires a comprehensive planning process, including a public comment period and detailed proposals from applicants. This includes requirements for applicants to develop “5-year action plans” that articulate how they will work with local and regional entities to deploy broadband networks, and how these networks will support local economic development, telehealth, and related connectivity efforts.
Ongoing Reporting and Accountability
There are also more stringent reporting requirements for recipients of BEAD grants, with initial reports due within 90 days after receiving any grant funds, semiannual reports thereafter, and a final report due no later than one year after all grant funds have been expended.
In summary, the BEAD program is a major step forward in the federal government’s efforts to expand and improve broadband access across the United States. It represents a substantial investment and commitment, and its requirements for detailed planning and ongoing accountability are designed to ensure that the funding is used effectively and equitably.
BEAD Grant State Allocations
|District of Columbia||$100,694,786.93|
|Northern Mariana Islands||$80,796,709.02|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||$27,103,240.86|
BEAD Grant Timeline
Below is a rough timeline of major BEAD grant program milestones:
- May 16, 2023: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issues a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the BEAD grant program.
- May 2023: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) publishes an online map showing all federally funded broadband grant projects.
- June 30, 2023: The NTIA released funding allocations for the BEAD program.
- 180 days after Notice of Funding Amounts is issued: Eligible entities have this period to develop and submit their initial proposal, which describes the competitive process the entity proposes to use to select subgrantees for broadband projects. Before submission to the NTIA, the initial proposal must be made available for public comment and incorporate local coordination feedback.
- No later than 12 months after approval of Initial Proposal: Eligible entities must submit their final reports no later than one year after all grant funds have been expended.
- Semiannually and Annually: Eligible entities must submit semiannual reports (no later than one year after receiving grant funds, then semi-annually), and subgrantees must submit semiannual reports describing the type of project and/or other eligible activities and duration of the subgrant.
Note that these dates are subject to change depending on the specific procedures and requirements of the NTIA and BEAD program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes the BEAD grant program different from past broadband initiatives?
The BEAD grant program represents a fundamental shift in strategy for closing the digital divide. As opposed to previous efforts which largely took a more hands-off approach to local issues, the BEAD program will allocate money to states directly and charge them with coming up with a plan specific to the needs of their constituents.
When will states begin receiving BEAD grant funding?
Once the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) approves an Initial Proposal, which will happen on a rolling basis, Eligible Entities (states and territories) will be permitted to request access to at least 20% of their allocated funds.
This is expected to begin rolling out sometime in 2024.
Which state received the most BEAD grant funding?
Texas received the highest amount of funding in the initial BEAD grant allocation, totaling $3,312,616,455.45.
Who is eligible for BEAD grant funding?
The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is designed to provide funding to a range of eligible entities to bolster high-speed internet access.
This includes all 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.