Broadband funding: What’s the right fit for you?

Broadband access has expanded in the US but there are a still number communities that suffer from limited access or no access at all. Here are just some of the ways this can be remedied.
Doug Payauys
Parson working on a tablet

The United States government has prioritized expanding broadband coverage to those communities that remain underserved or unserved. Through various programs such as CAF, RDOF, CARES, and USDA ReConnect, billions of dollars have been allocated and distributed to providers for increasing their broadband coverage and closing the digital divide

As the demand for increased coverage grows, federal agencies are now expanding their funding with a focus on distribution at the state and local levels. Some federal agencies are closing applications as soon as February 22, 2022.

What sort of funding is available? How do you know if you qualify?

Adtran has compiled a list of 2022 resources to assist service providers and communities looking to claim funding for expanded broadband coverage. Learn more below about the American Rescue Plan, USDA ReConnect Program, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

American Rescue Plan – Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)

  • Approximately $1.9 trillion budget with up to $350 billion allocated for infrastructure projects, including local discretion for ‘necessary investments’ in broadband
  • Recovery funds designed to aid state, local, tribal, and territory improvements
  • Capital Project Fund – projects dedicated to enabling work, education, and health
  • Benefits recently expanded by the U.S. Treasury Department to no longer restrict cities to providing coverage for unserved and underserved
  • U.S. Treasury Department issued a new ruling and released a corresponding FAQ resource regarding funds distribution and allocation in January 2022
  • This section clarifies eligibility to include more entities and updates terms like “reliably” to give providers discretion to define.


USDA ReConnect Program

  • Accepting applications until February 22, 2022
    • $1.15 billion distributed across four categories:
    • $200 million – 100% loans
    • $250 million – 50% grant, 50% loan
    • $350 million – 100% grant with a 25% match
    • $350 million – 100% grant for tribes and socially vulnerable
  • Eligibility
    • Lack sufficient access to broadband
      • 90% of households without access to 100M/20M
    • Must serve all premises in the proposed funded service area (PFSA) with 100M/100M
    • Must be in a rural area that has not previously received financial assistance
    • Cannot have received non-federal funds
    • This means previous RUS/FCC areas are eligible
    • Preference is given for RDOF areas
    • Corporations, LLC/LLP, cooperatives, state and local governments, U.S. territories, tribal communities qualify?
      • Only single entities, one application per applicant.
      • Service providers can participate with multiple applicants


National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD)
    • $42.4B earmarked for BEAD out of overall infrastructure the bill
    • Funding is distributed based on a formula that considers the number of unserved and high-cost locations in the state, based on the maps to be published by the FCC in 2022.
    • But priority is given to those providing broadband to unserved areas (those below 25/3 Mbps), followed by underserved areas (those below 100/20 Mbps), and then serving community anchor institutions (1/1 Gbps).

  • Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program
    • $1 billion program for construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure.
    • Designed to reduce the cost of expanding broadband services to unserved and underserved
    • Eligible to: Eligible applicants include states, political subdivisions of a state, tribal governments, technology companies, electric utilities, utility cooperatives, public utility districts, telecommunications companies, telecommunications cooperatives, nonprofit foundations, nonprofit corporations, nonprofit institutions, nonprofit associations, regional planning councils, native entities, or economic development authorities.
  • Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP)
    • $2 billion for TBCP in direct funding to tribal governments for broadband deployment on tribal lands
  • Digital Equity Act Program
    • $2.75 billion to establish three grant programs that promote digital inclusion and equity
    • Designed to promote adoption of broadband service to populations like low-income households, aging adults, incarcerated individuals, veterans, individuals with disabilities, those with a language barrier, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural inhabitants.
  • Eligibility
    • Eligible recipients include: corporations, LLC/LLP, cooperatives, state and local governments, U.S. territories, tribal communities, public-private partnerships, public or private utilities
    • Applies to all sections of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, unless specifically defined in a section above

  • Solution Requirements
    • Grant Recipients
      • Shall adhere to quality-of-service standards, comply with prudent cybersecurity and supply chain risk management practices, and comply with best practices for ensuring reliability and resilience of the broadband infrastructure
      • May not use funding to purchase or support the following:
        • Any covered communications equipment or service as defined by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019
        • Fiber optic cable and optical transmission equipment manufactured in the People’s Republic of China


Related articles