Every state will receive a minimum of $100 million from the new federal infrastructure law for rural broadband deployment, but how quickly these funds get to electric cooperatives and other internet providers depends on their timely submission of data showing where service is lacking.
The Federal Communications Commission has set a Sept. 1 deadline for all internet providers to submit data on the locations they serve and at what speed. That information will be used to create a national map of every home and business in the country without broadband. The map must be completed prior to the release of any Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants to states.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will also use the map to authorize additional BEAD funding to states based on a formula related to the number of unserved locations.
“There will be a lot of competition for these dollars,” said Brian O’Hara, NRECA senior regulatory director. “By filing accurate data ASAP, electric co-ops already providing broadband will allow the FCC to draw from information that will serve their communities in the best way.
“The sooner the FCC gets the data, the sooner the $100 million for rural broadband can be disbursed to each state, plus whatever else NTIA determines it qualifies for.”
The FCC has built a broadband data collection site for the new more granular map and requires data in specific electronic formats. Providers will also be required to submit data in the older FCC Form 477 format that co-ops have filed in the past to identify areas without internet access.
There will be two opportunities to dispute the accuracy of the new data collected by the FCC. Co-ops and other internet providers may use the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric to seek corrections to the database of serviceable locations. A second process will allow individuals and communities to challenge claims of available broadband service submitted by providers.
“We encourage electric co-ops already providing broadband to familiarize themselves with the commission’s new broadband data collection site now, work past any glitches and file their information as soon as possible,” O’Hara said. “Failure to submit timely data could also impact the ability of a provider to qualify to receive BEAD funding.”
Explore NRECA’s resources on broadband.