Factors Impacting BEAD Eligible Locations: Funding Defaults, State Policies, & More 

By: Zac Byrd, Marketing Associate, and Hailey Farrow, Marketing Manager, on behalf of CostQuest Associates

The delineation of BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) eligible locations is emerging as a significant factor in the strategic distribution of federal broadband funds. Navigating this task is increasingly complex due to existing funding program defaults, varying definitions of an unserved location by individual states and territories, and BEAD challenge processes.  

Particularly noteworthy is the reclassification of underserved in states like Vermont, Georgia, Nevada, and Missouri. Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs) served by certain fixed wireless services are now considered “underserved,” making these locations eligible for new funding. This change and rising historical federal funding program defaults open those locations up for BEAD eligibility.  

As state broadband offices prepare their final submissions to the NTIA, they’ve been tasked with navigating the interplay between these factors to create a final list of locations to target BEAD funding towards. Ultimately working to close the high-speed broadband gap in their respective regions. 

To date, approximately 30% of the $9.2 billion allocated through RDOF has been subject to default (Broadband Breakfast), impacting the scope and scale of potential BEAD-funded projects. These defaults are now opening previously awarded locations for BEAD funding. 

In response to the pervasive issue of defaults, a coalition of nearly 70 stakeholders – including ISPs, state and local officials, and educational entities wrote a letter to the FCC, advocating for the FCC to implement a limited amnesty period for RDOF and CAF recipients.  

The letter asks the FCC to mitigate the consequences for defaulting entities to allow more locations to qualify for BEAD funding under less stringent conditions.  

The coalition’s letter articulates its objective, stating, “The goal is to incentivize ISPs to release their funding areas now so that these communities are eligible for BEAD funding and do not miss out on America’s largest-ever broadband infrastructure expansion program (Connect Humanity Fund). 

The FCC’s openness to comments on this issue underscores that they are working on addressing default challenges while balancing regulatory enforcement of infrastructure deployment projects. 

Fixed Wireless Service Considered ‘Underserved’ in Four States 

A policy shift has taken place in Vermont, Georgia, Nevada, and Missouri, where the status of fixed wireless services has been reevaluated and is now classified as ‘underserved.’  

This reclassification reflects these state’s perspectives on the limitations posed by existing technologies and the need for enhanced infrastructure to support higher broadband speeds.  

By enabling these regions to qualify for federal funding, these states are working to ensure their efforts equalize access to reliable high-speed internet for all residents.

The variance in state broadband policies also adds to the factors affecting the BEAD eligibility landscape, with each state adapting its approach based on unique local needs and federal guidelines.  

Alabama came forth with a decision to advance its BEAD plan without the inclusion of an RDOF waiver.  

Initially, Alabama considered a proposal allowing areas designated for RDOF funding to qualify for BEAD funding. The intent was to mitigate risks associated with RDOF’s timelines and high default rates. However, after reviewing public feedback and receiving further guidance from NTIA, Alabama ultimately decided to withdraw this proposal

Kenneth Boswell, Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, noted, “Without a waiver, communities with commitments for RDOF broadband funding, and eliminated from BEAD funding consideration as a result, may suddenly find themselves with no possibility of broadband funding or improved broadband access at any time in the near future,” (Broadband Breakfast). 

Such decisions accentuate the nuanced approaches states are taking to navigate historical funding program commitments to leverage federal funds effectively and create efficient BEAD eligible location determinations. 

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