The National Information and Technology Administration (NTIA), a division of the Commerce Department, has released the long-awaited details of its $288 million Broadband Infrastructure Program. The funding authorized in late 2020 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act sets aside grants for state and local government projects with a preference for public/private partnerships. Service providers will not receive direct funding from NTIA.
NTIA expects to make awards ranging from $5 million to $30 million. Large-sized grants will limit the number of awards available through the program. Competition could be stiff; projects that are as near as possible to “shovel-ready” will have an advantage. Interested NRTC members should begin contacting state and local governments and planning partnerships as soon as possible.
In a Notice of Funding Opportunity, NTIA sets an Aug. 17 deadline to complete applications. It also indicates that it could announce the first grants under the program as soon as November 2021.
NTIA defines “covered partnership” as being between a state or one or more political subdivisions of a state and a fixed broadband provider. A “covered broadband project” is a plan to provide at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream. However, projects offering 100/20 will receive priority. A partnership could include more than one provider of fixed broadband service. Additionally, a provider of fixed broadband service may participate in more than one covered partnership.
The notice says that an “eligible service area” is a census block in which broadband service is not available at one or more households or businesses. A member of a covered partnership receiving funding through another federal or state program does not necessarily make the partnership ineligible for an NTIA grant.
The expected award range of $5-30 million is not the required minimum or maximum. Covered partnerships could request funding sizes outside that range but must provide reasonable explanations for the requests.
NRTC recently hosted a webinar providing additional information about the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program and other current federal and state funding initiatives. A recording of the session is available.
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