Start Preparing for BEAD Funding Grants Now
Attention! BEAD Funding allocation has arrived, offering a once-in-a-generation opportunity for broadband in the U.S. With more than $42.5 billion in grant funding flowing to state broadband programs, it is critical that communities act swiftly to plan now to get their share of funds, particularly those in rural or remote parts of the country. Communities can take an active role in securing their future by preparing to apply for funding immediately.
HR Green has helped dozens of communities prepare for this moment and, along the way, have seen a number of best practices. With our experience, we can help you make the most of this generational opportunity to improve connectivity for your community.
What is BEAD Funding?
The recent infrastructure bill has allocated $42 billion solely focused on broadband infrastructure. The impact of this funding, titled the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, on communities cannot be overstated. Robust broadband infrastructure is crucial for the proper functioning of modern-age community life. BEAD funding promotes equitable and accessible internet intended to prompt access for every citizen, no matter where they reside. By expanding broadband access, BEAD funding empowers communities to partake in the rapidly evolving digital landscape, paving the way for a better future.
The allocation of funds is based on the FCC’s latest broadband maps showing unserved, underserved, and served areas, identifying where investments in broadband infrastructure are most needed. (An initial version of the map was published on Nov. 18, 2022.)
Who Can Apply for BEAD Funding?
Municipalities and private service providers can both apply for BEAD funding, although it is likely that public-private partnerships (P3s) will receive priority funding through any state grant programs. Public entities are best positioned when they have a strategic or comprehensive broadband plan in place that ensures access and equity for their stakeholders.
How to Prepare for BEAD Funding Application
The windows for applying can be short, so it’s essential to plan now! The BEAD Program is a structured four-phase process consisting of a letter of intent and planning, funding allocation, initial proposal, and final proposal and implementation. Each phase is meticulously designed with time-bound requirements to ensure that states, territories, or the NTIA smoothly progress to the next phase.
There are four things you need to do now to be prepared for when applications open:
1. Gather information: Start collecting the necessary information, such as letters of support, details of collaborators, data, maps, costs, and grant writing strategies. Our partners have successfully challenged provider maps that overstate the presence of broadband, and doing so early will help make funding via the grant program easier.
2. Stay informed: Keep an eye on the application timelines, updates, eligibility requirements, and other relevant information to ensure you are ready when the time comes to apply.
3. Develop a Vision and Strategy. Many of our clients have found that defining the problem and establishing a Vision is crucial. Is your community willing to take on the risk and investment to provide municipal broadband, or are you best served seeking out an ISP partner (or partners)? With a Vision and Strategy in place, you can help guide the process instead of relying on the private sector without influence.
4. Partner with experts: Work with a company like HR Green that has years of experience in the application process. We can provide support, guidance, and help you navigate the complex funding landscape.
A Success Story: McHenry County
HR Green has helped many communities solve this challenging puzzle. One of our clients, McHenry County, decided to leverage American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for broadband. The county had a need to expand broadband service but did not want to become the service provider. Our team collaborated with McHenry County, creating a program that supported private company growth.
The funding was used as an incentive for established broadband service providers to apply for grants and expand their services to the area. In this case, it was crucial that the county acted as the organizer for the broadband expansion project rather than becoming a service provider. Two providers have submitted grants covering most of the county’s geography, and the county is likely to be able to repurpose the broadband ARPA funds due to the coordinated effort.
Bridge the Digital Divide
Gain precision guidance for your community to make the most of BEAD Funding allocation. Our experienced team of broadband professionals understand the pivotal role communities play in providing broadband access to their citizens. We are ready to help you determine your community’s specific needs and provide unwavering support throughout every step of the implementation process.