The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced the availability of $288 million in grant funding for the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Applications must be submitted by August 17, 2021. Awards are anticipated by November 15, 2021, with expected start dates beginning November 29, 2021.
Grants are available to partnerships between a state, or political subdivisions of a state, and providers of fixed broadband service, with individual awards expected to be within the range of $5,000,000 to $30,000,000. Matching funds will not be required, but NTIA will give preference to proposals with cost sharing covering at least 10% of the project costs. Eligible service areas are defined as census blocks in which 25/3 Mbps broadband service is not available at one or more households or businesses in the census block, as determined by the Assistant Secretary of NTIA on the basis of (A) the maps created under section 802(c)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 642(c)(1)); or (B) if those maps are unavailable, the most recent information available to the Assistant Secretary, including information provided by the Federal Communications Commission. NTIA plans to use the FCC Form 477 data layer in its National Broadband Availability Map to validate eligible service areas.
Funds may be used to cover the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment required to provide “qualifying broadband service”; the cost of long-term facilities leases for broadband service, including indefeasible rights of use agreements; and reasonable pre-application expenses or grant preparation costs not exceeding $50,000. Qualifying broadband service is defined as a service that can provide 25/3 Mbps speeds simultaneously to every household in an eligible service area where 95% or more of all peak measurements of network round trip latency are at or below 100 milliseconds. Funding must be used within one year, subject to any approved extensions.
NTIA will prioritize funding in the following order:
· Projects designed to provide broadband to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area;
· Projects designed to provide broadband in an eligible service area that is wholly within any area other than:
· A county, city, or town with a population greater than 50,000; and
· An urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to a city or town of greater than 50,000;
· Projects that are the most cost-effective, prioritizing those in the most rural area;
· Projects designed to provide 100/20 Mbps broadband service; and
· Any other projects meeting the funding criteria.
NTIA will hold a series of webinars on the Broadband Infrastructure Program, including two upcoming webinars on June 9 and 10.
If you have questions about NTIA’s Broadband Infrastructure Program, please contact any attorney in our office.