CTF Encouraged by NTIA’s Broadband Funding Guidance
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), responsible for the distribution of $45 billion in broadband funding as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), recently unveiled its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program – another significant step toward expanding broadband accessibility to every corner of the United States.
Connect the Future (CTF) applauds the NOFO’s further emphasis on the priority to distribute these critical funds to truly unserved communities first, defined as those without any service options meeting the federal 25/3 Mbps definition for broadband. As NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson emphasized, only states that have already demonstrated plans to reach all unserved areas first will then be able to use other funding for “underserved” areas – those without internet speeds of 100/20 Mbps – as well.
CTF is also encouraged by NTIA’s promise to avoid duplicative funding to areas already covered by or set to be covered by other programs, like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Notably, the NOFO also asks eligible applicants to identify steps they will take to “reduce costs and barriers to deployment, promote…streamlined permitting processes and cost-effective access to poles, conduits, easements, and rights of way, including the imposition of reasonable access requirements” – a longstanding focus of our work at CTF, because we know that we can only reach our nation’s broadband ambitions if we break down the existing barriers to infrastructure buildout, like pole access issues.
CTF looks forward to continuing to engage with stakeholders at the federal, state, and local level as these funds are being allocated to ensure maximum participation by providers so that the goal of connecting every unserved household can be reached.
“Access to reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s world, and smart allocation of this historic federal broadband funding, along with common sense policies that break down obstacles to swift buildout, will help bring us closer than ever toward achieving full connectivity across our country,” said Zach Cikanek, Executive Director of Connect the Future. “We are encouraged to see that the Notice of Funding Opportunity from NTIA acknowledges the critical role that poles play in broadband expansion and also aims to distribute this funding first and foremost to the communities that need it most, so truly unserved families will not be left behind.”
The NTIA’s NOFO, coupled with the FCC’s current proceeding on pole attachments – which examines pole attachment cost distribution, dispute resolution, and permitting timelines – gives us a real opportunity to ensure that the impact of every federal dollar invested in broadband infrastructure is maximized, so that we can finally bridge our nation’s digital divide once-and-for-all.