The newest and largest federal effort to fund rural high-speed internet is getting ready to launch, and NRECA is encouraging electric cooperatives that offer broadband or are planning to do so to contact their state officials now.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $42.5 billion to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to distribute a minimum of $100 million to each state participating in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to deploy internet to unserved or underserved communities.

NTIA on May 16 is expected to release a Notice of Funding Opportunity with rules for how states can disburse BEAD funds.

“As states await rules from NTIA on the program, co-ops in broadband should be engaging with state and local officials on broadband needs in their service territories and how they can be partners in connecting rural communities,” said Katie Culleton, NRECA legislative director.

“Electric co-ops have a long history of being excellent stewards of federal resources and should highlight that fact in their communications with state and BEAD program officials.”

States without a standing broadband office, or those that need to expand their current program, may request up to $5 million of their $100 million allocation to hire and train staff, do community outreach, perform research, upgrade technology and carry out other planning and pre-deployment tasks considered necessary by NTIA.

Disbursement of additional BEAD funds to states will rely on updated broadband data and service maps from the Federal Communications Commission. These maps, which may be available this fall, will show where the need for service is greatest. NRECA has been actively engaged with the FCC on efforts to improve the granularity and accuracy of broadband data and maps.

Deployment funds are expected to go toward connecting eligible homes, businesses and community anchor institutions. The money can also be used for data collection, broadband mapping and other activities approved by the NTIA administrator.

Population areas shown as unserved or underserved will be considered priority for financial aid.

BEAD defines unserved as lacking a minimum speed of 25/3 megabits per second for data download and upload and underserved as below 100/20 Mbps.

More information about this program and other broadband opportunities is available at NRECA’s Infrastructure Resource Hub.

Explore NRECA’s resources on broadband.