Another Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program Grant Complication

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)'s definition of reliable broadband service in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grant rules says that any grant cannot be used to overbuild a reliable broadband technology that meets or exceeds the 100/20 Mbps speed threshold of the grants. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) said that the grants can’t be used where speeds are adequate for the following technologies: (i) fiber-optic technology; (ii) Cable Modem/ Hybrid fiber-coaxial technology; (iii) digital subscriber line (DSL) technology; or (iv) terrestrial fixed wireless technology utilizing entirely licensed spectrum or using a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The policy behind this makes sense – the NTIA doesn’t think that valuable federal grant dollars should be used where adequate broadband technology is already in use. But this particular definition is going to cause some complications the NTIA might not have considered. Internet service providers interested in BEAD awards are now going to have to wait until the new broadband maps come out to know what this might do to their grant plans. I’m thinking that, at least in some cases, this will be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back and convinces an ISPs to walk away and not even try.

[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]

Another BEAD Grant Complication