States Seek Comment on BEAD
Recently, Georgia and Kansas released Congressionally-mandated five-year plans for distributing their shares of $42.5B in federal Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) broadband funding. This represents a critical opportunity for small and independent broadband providers to lend their voices and communicate their unique roles in deployment to the most difficult-to-serve areas. JSI urges its clients to consider ways to advocate for the most favorable position in these generational funding programs.
On August 10, 2023, the Georgia Office of Planning & Budget (OPB) released its Five-Year Action Plan for allocating the state’s estimated $1.3B share of BEAD funding. The plan includes a comprehensive statewide broadband needs assessment and establishes Georgia’s plan to provide all residents with robust, high-speed Internet connectivity. The plan inventories broadband deployment, adoption and access resources and identifies challenges and gaps. OBP focuses on barriers posed by right-of-way and pole access issues, regulatory obstacles, and labor shortages and supply chain issues. The plan includes next steps for implementation, including stakeholder engagement, development of public/private partnerships and workforce training, and outreach on Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) assistance. Georgia providers should review the plan, compare it with their current buildout “pain points,” and offer ideas in written comments and meetings with state broadband officials about how BEAD funding should be focused to address these limitations.
Kansas’s Office of Broadband Deployment (OBD) released Volume I of its Initial Proposal for BEAD funding on August 2, 2023. The state is expected to receive $451M in BEAD grants. Volume I summarizes existing Federal, state and Tribal broadband funding sources, outlines Kansas’s identification of unserved and underserved locations, and describes community anchor institution engagement and a proposed challenge process. Comments on Volume I are due on August 30, 2023 at 5:00 pm (CDT). OBD will release Volume II of its Initial Proposal (addressing subgrantee/provider selection criteria) at a later date. Kansas providers should review the Initial Proposal to identify discrepancies in the state’s designation of unserved/underserved areas and should consider whether the proposed challenge process addresses their needs.
How Independent Broadband Providers Should Get Involved
BEAD is the largest grant program JSI has seen to date and given political realities, could be the last one of this nature. The most effective way for rural providers to persuade the states toward favorable grant requirements is by filing comments and participating in meetings with state broadband staff. With six states and territories with active comment cycles, JSI can alert you when your state’s cycle becomes active so you can share your current buildout “pain points” and offer ideas about how BEAD funding can address those pain points. You can also raise any discrepancies with the state’s designation of unserved/underserved areas and share your reactions to the proposed challenge process.
JSI can help your company file individual or joint comments with other JSI clients to ensure that your state broadband office understands the importance of crafting BEAD guidelines to incentivize and maximize small and rural provider participation given their unique challenges.
BEAD is an excellent opportunity for rural and independent broadband providers to diversify and grow their revenue base and combat market trends likely to deteriorate margins in the future. JSI’s High-Level BEAD Assessment will help your company determine the overall feasibility and potential financial benefit through mapping, financial modeling, and business analysis.
If you would like JSI to add you to our State tracking and notification list, file comments on these plans, or conduct a BEAD assessment, please contact Amanda Molina, Senior Director – Business Development; Jackie McCarthy, State Policy Lead; or Dave Lewis, Vice President – Product Development & Strategic Initiatives, either by clicking the button below to connect with them by email or by calling 301-459-7590 during normal office hours.