As the date nears for the release of billions of federal dollars for rural broadband, NRECA is urging electric cooperatives to review recent updates to the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map that will guide where funding goes.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will use the map to allocate funds to states from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. NTIA plans to announce BEAD allocations June 30.

On May 30, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the updated map identifies 8.3 million new locations lacking access to high-speed internet—330,000 more than were identified in last November’s version of the map.

Brian O’Hara, NRECA senior regulatory affairs director, said electric co-ops should examine the updates as soon as possible given the impending NTIA funding awards.

“It is important to review the map updates and continue to submit where broadband service is still lacking and service location challenges,” he said. “Corrections resulting from availability challenge will be reflected in the map as they are adjudicated, but any updated locations will not show on the map until the next version, scheduled for late November at the earliest.”

Congress assigned the largest portion of so-called “internet for all” funding from the 2021 infrastructure law to BEAD, with each state and territory receiving $100 million or more to distribute for rural broadband deployment.

BEAD is required to rely on the FCC's coverage maps to identify areas as unserved (those lacking internet speeds of 25/3 megabits per second to download and upload data) or underserved (those with 25/3 Mbps service but lacking access to speeds of 100/20 Mbps).