10 resources to help communities secure federal broadband funding

10 resources to help communities secure federal broadband funding

In my day-to-day work developing projects and proposals, I do a lot of research into efforts to connect all Americans to fast, affordable, reliable broadband. There are a number of resources I come back to over and over again when thinking about if and how communities can access federal broadband funding (this table from Common Sense Media gives a quick view of current opportunities, with useful milestones).

While this post is focused on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the $65 billion that’s about to flow, these tools are useful for thinking about other federal funding sources, as well as general learning and planning.

Learn the lingo around fiber

Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) — the main portion of IIJA broadband funding — prioritizes end-to-end fiber. This great rundown from EFF details why fiber is the preferred solution for last-mile connectivity and gives a handy glossary to get you up-to-speed with key broadband terminology. — The home of the federal broadband funding

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) 
This is where to find details of broadband funding opportunities from the agency administering IIJA broadband funds. You’ll want to read the notice of funding opportunities (NOFOs) for BEAD and Digital Equity Act. While basically directions for states, they include info about eligibility, timelines, reporting requirements, and so much more that’s useful for anyone who will apply for IIJA funding.

A shortcut to get smart on IIJA funding

National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)
If you don’t have time to nerd out and read each NOFO in its entirety — no problem! NDIA published a series of quick summaries to help you get up to speed on each of the three IIJA funding opportunities.

A list of State Broadband Offices

States are charged with managing and distributing BEAD funds, so you’ll need to get to know your State Broadband Office. This guide gives information about each state office, as well as information about anticipated grant amounts and maps with pricing, demographic, business, and other data.

Man attaches networking equipment

A rundown of community-led broadband projects

Institute of Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)
Expanding internet connectivity doesn’t have to mean bringing in a large telco operator — in fact the networks most effectively connecting underserved areas are coming from community connectivity providers like municipal networks and cooperatives — including nine of the 10 fastest networks in the US. ILSR is keeping a running list of community broadband-led projects — providing inspiration for what’s possible.

The states blocking municipal networks

Broadband Now
While municipal networks are providing some of the fastest, most affordable internet access in the country, at least 17 states have either banned or restricted muni broadband. According to BEAD rules, the broadband offices in these states must disclose whether they will waive these restrictions and, if not, they must describe how rules will be applied when considering grant awards and report on how any of these non-waived laws impacted sub-grant decisions.

Five things philanthropy should know about broadband funds

Connect Humanity
In this article, I write about how funders can prepare their communities to access BEAD and DEA funding.

Maps and data

Now for my favorites — maps. So many maps! Mapping data will be crucial in how grants are decided and awarded. These are the ones I frequently visit to get a view of an areas’ internet providers, broadband speeds, previous funding, and community demographics.

State Broadband Maps

These interactive, info-rich state-level maps allow you to layer speed tests, existing providers, demographics, community anchor institutions, a ranking of how well served a community is (using BEAD definitions), and much more.

Indicators of Broadband Need Map

This map combines data sources to show information on broadband availability, including data from the US census, Ookla, Measurement Lab (M-Lab), Microsoft, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This analysis from MLab highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the maps and its underlying data.

RDOF Auction Details Map

BEAD prohibits applicants from building in areas that were granted Rural Digital Opportunities Funds (RDOF). This map shows where these funds have been awarded.

I hope these tools are useful for others who are working towards ensuring IIJA broadband funding accelerates internet access in underserved communities. Please email me with any tools I’ve missed and we’ll share them too.

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