Unpacking BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2 from States & Territories  

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

The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program’s Initial Proposal Volume 2 represents a defining moment in enhancing broadband connectivity across the United States. At the heart of this initiative lies a comprehensive strategy aimed at leveraging federal funding resources to expand digital infrastructure and make a difference for all Americans.  

Each state and territory’s broadband office is tailoring its BEAD program strategies to meet the unique challenges of its respective regions.

In this article, we’ll unpack the purpose and common themes across the critical areas of all 56 state and territory’s BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2 at a high level, including: 

  • Long-term objectives 
  • Project areas 
  • Extremely high-cost threshold 
  • State and territory planning processes 
  • Deployment subgrantee scoring criteria 

The Long-Term Objectives portion set forth by broadband offices details what their individual BEAD program will prioritize while still following the NTIA’s BEAD program guidance and requirements. Below are the most common long-term objectives across all 56 Volume 2 proposals. 

1. Achieving Universal Broadband Coverage 

At the core of the BEAD program’s long-term objectives is the universal aim to achieve 100% broadband coverage, mainly focusing on unserved and underserved areas.  

States and territories are charting ambitious plans to bridge the existing connectivity gaps, recognizing that in the digital age, having access to the internet directly correlates with access to essential opportunities. 

2. Fueling Economic Growth and Job Creation 

The expansion of broadband is intrinsically linked to economic vitality. Broadband offices are leveraging BEAD funding as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation, recognizing the power of high-speed internet to unlock innovation, attract investment, and support the development of new industries.  

3. Comprehensive Strategies for Access, Affordability, and Adoption 

Addressing the multifaceted challenges of access, affordability, and adoption is at the center of the BEAD program’s strategic approach. States and territories are working to address affordability concerns and ensure individuals and communities have the necessary skills and tools to leverage digital technologies. Such strategies include subsidies, digital literacy, and community outreach programs to remove internet usage barriers, fostering a digitally inclusive society. 

4. Enhancing Support for Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) 

Another critical objective highlighted in the BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2 revolves around bolstering support for Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) with high-speed broadband services. By ensuring CAIs have reliable and swift internet access, states and territories aim to enhance the quality of education, healthcare, and public services, by making them more accessible for all citizens. 

The strategic identification and prioritization of project areas are key in the deployment of broadband services under the BEAD program. This process involves a precise approach to defining Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs) and CAIs within specific areas eligible for BEAD funding. The strategic design of project areas will aim to ensure deployment efforts are targeted and impactful in reaching all unserved and underserved locations.  

Methodologies for Defining Project Areas 

Broadband offices are using various methods to define project areas for broadband deployment. 

On one end, some offices are embracing geospatial precision, utilizing advanced mapping technologies like Hex9 units, census tracts, or custom geographical boundaries to outline project areas with data-driven accuracy.  

Conversely, other offices determine project areas based on applicant-defined boundaries and Census Block Groups (CBGs), school districts, or other geographical boundary data.  

In the NTIA’s BEAD NOFO, fiber deployment projects are determined as a high priority to invest in future-proof infrastructure that meets the bandwidth needs of today and in the future.  

The potential Extremely High-Cost Threshold (EHCT) determination helps broadband offices determine the high-cost point at which they will begin to consider alternative technologies instead of fiber deployments that are more feasible to service an area.  

Addressing Deployment Challenges in High-Cost Areas 

The challenge lies in strategizing how to deploy high-speed broadband in high-cost regions effectively.  

States and territories may be tasked with looking into alternative deployment solutions that balance cost-efficiency with meeting high-speed requirements of 100/20 Mbps.  

It’s important to note that the decision to set an extremely high-cost threshold may be made after a thorough review of all the applications submitted and some may not set a high-cost benchmark. 

This deliberate approach works to assess the need for such a threshold based on proposed projects, associated costs, and the potential use of past grant program data. 

The intricate framework of the Planning Process encompasses:  

  1. Utilization of broadband data and mapping techniques 
  2. Stakeholder collaboration & community involvement 
  3. Outreach and collaboration with tribal nations 

1. Leveraging Advanced Broadband Data & Mapping Techniques 

Comprehensive broadband data and mapping stand as one of THE most critical tools in the BEAD planning process. 

Through advanced location-level mapping techniques and ongoing service availability data collection efforts, states and territories can pinpoint the unserved and underserved Broadband Serviceable Locations and direct resources to where they are most needed. 

2. Engaging with a Spectrum of Stakeholders & Public Communities 

As noted in the BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2, a pivotal element of the planning process is engagement with local authorities, service providers, businesses, educational institutions, civil society groups, and public communities. 

Such collaborations are instrumental in pooling knowledge and resources that facilitate a holistic approach to identifying needs, barriers, and ensure expansion strategies are grounded in the lived experiences and needs of those they aim to serve. 

3. Outreach & Collaboration with Tribal Nations 

A particular focus is placed on outreach and collaboration with tribal nations, acknowledging these communities’ unique challenges and priorities in the broadband expansion landscape. 

Broadband offices engage in respectful dialogue and partnership with tribal leaders to ensure that broadband expansion plans are respectful of tribal sovereignty, address specific needs, and leverage opportunities for connectivity enhancements in tribal lands. 

The deployment of broadband infrastructure under the BEAD program involves a rigorous subgrantee selection process, where broadband offices set forth clear criteria and metrics to evaluate and score subgrantees for broadband deployment projects. This evaluation validates that the projects chosen can meet the program’s coverage goals.  

1. Evaluating Technical Feasibility  

Broadband offices need assurance that proposed projects can be realistically implemented with the proposed technology and within the proposed timelines. This assessment includes examining the subgrantee’s proposed technical plan, previous experience, and resources. 

2. Community Impact  

Broadband offices are looking for projects that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of unserved and underserved residents. They are looking for demonstrations that show a clear understanding of local needs and how to meet specific speed and coverage percentage targets. 

3. Prioritizing Affordability

Broadband offices recognize that expanding internet access may not have as much of an impact if there are affordability barriers amongst specific populations to access internet services. Through this recognition, they outlined strategies and mechanisms to assist with service affordability concerns. 

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