On July 14 and 15, 2021, NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program staff discussed the Broadband Infrastructure Program, providing further detail on the competitive grant program, which is currently accepting applications. This program intends to make $288 million in awards, in amounts ranging from $5 million to $30 million, to covered partnerships for competitively and technologically neutral projects for the deployment of fixed broadband service to areas that do not have access to qualifying broadband service (25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload broadband speeds with low latency).
Sarah Bleau, Broadband Specialist at NTIA, moderated the webinars, which began with a brief introduction of the Broadband Infrastructure Program, as well as the presenters and agenda of the webinars.
Katherine Bates, Team Lead of the Broadband Infrastructure Program at NTIA, began by discussing key upcoming dates related to the program. Both the Notice of Funding Opportunity as well as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are already posted on the Broadband Infrastructure Program webpage. Applications are to be completed no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on August 17, 2021. Bates also highlighted the need for volunteers to act as merit reviewers and evaluate the applications NTIA receives for this grant program.
Jennifer Duane, Director of Grants at NTIA, then provided an overview of the Broadband Infrastructure Program. Duane discussed definitions relevant to the program, including qualifying broadband service and unserved areas. Also discussed was the application process, eligibility requirements and NTIA’s priorities for awarding funding under this grant program.
Tim Moyer, Director of Data and Mapping at NTIA then discussed NTIA’s Indicators of Broadband Need Map, which utilizes data from a number of sources. The Federal Communications Commission Form 477 provided census-block-level data collected from internet service providers (ISPs), which visualize areas where broadband speeds do not meet the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps benchmark. Microsoft also provided data which is used to estimate the percentage of individual counties that utilize broadband, or internet speeds of 25 Mbps download or greater. Moyer also discussed data gathered from M-lab, Ookla, and the American Community Survey (ACS).
Amanda Pereira, Environmental/NEPA Specialist at the First Responder Network Authority, provided a review of environmental and historic preservation requirements associated with the Broadband Infrastructure Program. Pereira highlighted that applications must include a detailed project description, which includes applicable supporting documentation, in the Project Narrative to allow for NTIA to conduct the initial National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, including a preliminary determination about the level of NEPA review required. Pereira also noted that awardees must obtain all federal, tribal, state, and local governmental permits and approvals before beginning their project, but not before the award is announced.
More information about the Broadband Infrastructure program, including answers to more FAQs and requirements for grant applications, can be found on the program’s page on BroadbandUSA’s website. Also, please visit the website for:
- Video, slides, and transcript for this webinar, Broadband Infrastructure Webinar, Sessions 4a and 4b;
- More information on upcoming sessions; and
- More information about all three of NTIA’s grant programs, including Notices of Funding Opportunity and FAQs, as it becomes available.