Your Ultimate Guide to Government Funding Opportunities for Broadband Infrastructure Projects
What’s the difference between CPF and IIJA? If you’re an operator in the business of broadband infrastructure and you don’t know, this explainer is for you. $97 billion has been pledged to assist operators in the construction of networks where internet connectivity is lacking (under the minimum thresholds of 100 Mbps upstream and 20 Mbps downstream) or non-existent.
But how is this money being allocated and by whom? Keep reading to find out…
There are over a hundred federal programs with funding opportunities related to broadband infrastructure. Depending on the program and government agency involved, grants are available for funding broadband for rural healthcare, rural community broadband planning, digital equity, remote learning and bridging the digital divide in education, and workforce training.
But the biggest and brightest funding opportunities appear in just a handful of programs passed as part of the U.S. Congress’ response to the Covid pandemic. $97 billion in funding for broadband infrastructure will be distributed over the next five years.
Here is a list of acronyms of the broadband infrastructure funding programs and agencies:
- ARPA: American Rescue Plan Act
- BEAD: Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program
- CPF: Capital Projects Fund funded by ARPA
- FCC: Federal Communications Commission
- IIJA: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
- NTIA: National Telecommunications & Information Administration
- RDOF: Rural Digital Opportunities Fund
- USDA: United States Department of Agriculture
Broadband Infrastructure Funding Programs
Let’s take a brief glance at the breakdown of funding for broadband infrastructure by program and agency:
|Middle Mile Program||NTIA||$1 Billion|
|Tribal Broadband Connectivity||NTIA||$1.98 Billion|
|ReConnect Round 4||USDA||$1.15 Billion|
|Grand Total||$97 Billion|
FCC Role in Determining Maps for Broadband Infrastructure Development
Before we examine these federally funded broadband infrastructure programs in detail, it’s important to understand the role the FCC is playing in the collection of data to determine whether an area is eligible for funding.
When the U.S. Congress passed the Broadband DATA Act in March of 2020, they required that the FCC establish a process for collecting data from broadband providers to create coverage maps for all residences and businesses in the United States. These new maps will replace the bi-annual broadband provider availability reporting referred to as “477 data.”
These new maps are currently in development. Service providers must submit location specific coverage data by September 1st, 2022. While we don’t yet know when the final version of the maps will be available, we expect that it will be sometime in the fall of 2022.
Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) – $20 billion (h3)
The RDOF program is a reverse auction where the FCC will award census blocks to providers on the basis of the lowest submitted bids. The FCC has been authorized to spend up to $20 billion in funding through multiple rounds of auctions. Currently, they are still authorizing funding to Round 1 winners. Additional information on the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is available here.
The NTIA will make roughly $45 billion in broadband infrastructure available through three distinct programs.
Middle Mile Program (MMP) – $1 billion
The MMP will be administered directly by the NTIA. The purpose of the program is to promote the expansion and extension of middle mile infrastructure in order to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas. Many different types of entities including states, tribes, local governments, providers, nonprofits, and others will be eligible for funding. For more information about the Middle Mile Program, click the link below.
The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) – $1.98 billion
The TBCP is currently in process from NTIA, with eligibility currently confined to tribal governments. The TBCP delivers funding for broadband infrastructure deployments on tribal lands, as well as other projects that require reliable broadband connectivity: remote learning, telehealth, and digital inclusion.
The Broadband Equity and Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) – $42.5 billion
BEAD will be administered by the NTIA, but it will be funded through the states. U.S. states will make BEAD funds available to localities, tribes, local governments, service providers, and nonprofits.
There are several layers to the BEAD program. To begin with, the amount of money allocated to each state will be determined by the number of unserved locations from the forthcoming FCC map (mentioned above). The NTIA and FCC will decide the date when the allocation can commence—expected in the late spring of 2023.
When the allocation date is set, states can begin to submit their plans to the NTIA for funding. Below is an overview of the states planning process:
- Action Plan – States that request money from NTIA will be required to submit a five-year Action Plan 270 days after receiving funds. States will receive planning money ($5 million per state) in September 2022.
- Initial Proposal – All states must submit an initial proposal to NTIA following the Allocation Date. They will have six months to complete this initial proposal. States’ initial proposals will be available for public review and challenge. If states’ initial proposals are accepted, the NTIA will release 20% of the funds allocated to each state based on their specific broadband needs.
- Final Proposal – States have a year to prepare and submit their final proposals. Once a State’s final proposal is approved, NTIA will release the remaining 80% of their allotment.
Any delays in the publication of the new FCC maps will push back the Allocation Date. The BEAD program has significant requirements for each state.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – $20 billion
Over $350 billion in funding was granted to the states in 2021. Part of these funds can be used toward investment in broadband infrastructure. As of this writing, nearly $20 billion of these funds are being used by states and localities for broadband infrastructure projects.
Capital Projects Fund (CPF) – $10 billion
As a part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the CPF will allocate $10 to the states for programs that count as part of the pandemic response. One important focus on this fund is broadband infrastructure, although monies from this program can also be used for other broadband projects.
For more information on the Capital Projects Fund, click the link here.
ReConnect Round 4 – $1.15 Billion
Administered by the USDA, the Rural Development Broadband Program will consist of a combination of grants and loans to many entities. Applications will be accepted until November 2nd, 2022.
Infinity Technology Solutions for Broadband Infrastructure Projects
At Infinity Technology Solutions, we have experience assisting public and private entities in building fiber networks to make broadband internet access a reality for all U.S. citizens.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you successfully launch your broadband infrastructure project.