Tag: "state grants"

Posted October 4, 2022 by Karl Bode

Tennessee cooperatives and utilities came out at the top of the heap in the latest round of awards from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund, netting nearly half of all money awarded for the expansion of more affordable broadband statewide.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) awarded $446.8 million to 36 applicants, who are now tasked with deploying improved broadband service to 150,000 unserved homes and businesses across 58 Tennessee counties. All told, TNECD said that 218 applicants applied for a total of $1.2 billion in broadband funding.

Of the $446.8 million in awards, utilities and cooperatives walked away with $204.4 million.

Major awards to utilities included Lexington Electric System ($27.5 million), Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative ($17.7 million), Greeneville Energy Authority ($8.2 million), Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) ($15.2 million), Board of Public Utilities of the City of Fayetteville ($23.9 million), and Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation ($17.5 million). 

“This is great news for our community,” Gabriel J. Bolas, President & CEO of KUB, said in a statement provided to ILSR. “We have known for some time that there is a need for reliable internet in Union, Grainger, Sevier, and Jefferson Counties, and this announcement proves there is a broad and concerted commitment to address their needs soon.”

Grants for Regional Telecom Giants Part of the Mix

Regional telecom giants and local monopolies were also well represented by the state’s latest broadband funding round. 

Though it had applied for more than $35 million in funding, Charter Communications was awarded $20.4 million to reach parts of six counties. Comcast received $2.2 million to improve connectivity in Anderson, Hamilton and Knox counties.

TDS Telecom, which goes by the brand name Tellico Telephone Company in Tennessee,...

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Posted June 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

NEK Broadband has been awarded a $16 million grant by the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) to expand fiber access to 10 new Vermont communities. It’s among the earliest of what is likely to be a flurry of activity by the mostly-newly created Communications Union Districts - partnerships between rural cities and towns - which have formed over the last few years to solve the connectivity crisis for the tens of thousands of Vermonters who have been left behind by the current broadband marketplace.

A New Approach

Vermont’s broadband policy leaders say they plan to embrace CUDs as the primary avenue by which they hope to bridge the state’s long standing digital divide. A significant portion of the state’s $150 million broadband package will be funneled toward CUDs in a state where 85 percent of municipalities and 90 percent of underserved locations fall within a CUD.

The formation of most of the state’s CUDs is relatively new, though the most veteran example (EC Fiber) formed more than fifteen years ago. After years of persistence by EC Fiber, determined progress, and attitudinal changes in policy at the state level, CUDs now sit at the heart of the state’s rural broadband efforts.

Today, the municipally led CUDs can legally fund needed broadband expansions through debt, grants, and donations - but not taxes. Enter Vermont’s Act 71 Broadband Construction Grant program, which is doling out grants to the CUDs to deliver symmetrical speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to underserved portions of the state. 

NEK Among the First

NEK Broadband is one of nine municipal partnerships called Communications Union District (CUD), scattered across the state of...

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Posted May 24, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Mountain Connect 2022 got a big kick off this morning in Keystone, Colorado with a Q&A discussion between National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson and Broadband Breakfast CEO, Editor and Publisher Drew Clark.

Davidson provided a broad overview of the newly released Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) program, which set the table for the multitude of break-out sessions that attracted a who’s who of broadband providers, vendors, policy-makers and vendors.

Under the BEAD program, each of the 50 states will be eligible to receive a minimum of $100 million to expand high-speed Internet access, though most states will receive hundreds of millions more as additional funding will be allocated to states based on a formula that takes into account how many unserved households are in each state.

Most States On Board for BEAD

Davidson said that 25 states have already submitted their Letter of Intent (LOI) to seek BEAD funding. In all, 35 states have indicated they will also participate in the program so far as NTIA works with the other 15 states and territories to encourage them to take advantage of the largest ever federal investment in broadband.

While Davidson touted the unprecedented opportunity now being made available to states to close the digital divide, Clark did probe him on several concerns around the requirements of the BEAD application process that a number of broadband advocates and small- to midsize Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have raised since the NOFO was released on May 13.

One question in particular Clark raised was the letter of credit requirement that subgrantees must acquire to qualify for funding. A number of ISPs and local officials interested in municipal...

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Posted May 16, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The window to request an unprecedented amount of federal funds to support state broadband grant programs is now open for business.

On Friday the 13th, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) officially announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) program.

The BEAD program, which is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that was passed in November 2021, represents the single largest federal investment in broadband expansion in U.S. history. The program, according to NTIA’s own definition, is designed to allocate the funds to all 50 states (U.S. territories and Tribal governments) to support “projects that help expand high-speed Internet access … (through) infrastructure deployment, mapping, and adoption. This includes planning and capacity-building in state offices. And it supports outreach and coordination with local communities.”

The Application Process Has Begun

We have documented and discussed the BEAD program on numerous occasions, which you can find here. But the big news that comes with the NOFO release are the application deadlines associated with it.

States have until July 18 to submit their Letter of Intent (LOI), a required first step for states to receive a minimum of $100 million in BEAD funds. (States will be allocated additional funding based on a formula that takes into account how many unserved households are in each state).

According to the BEAD application guidelines released with the NOFO, the LOI must include:

  • A statement that the Eligible Entity intends to participate in the program; 
  • Specific information to identify the agency, department, or office that will serve as the recipient of, and administering agent for,...
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Posted April 19, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Last week, the Golden State Connectivity Authority (GSCA) announced it has entered into formal partnership with the municipally owned open access network UTOPIA Fiber, for the Utah-based owner and provider to design, build, and operate a new open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network across the 38 rural counties in the state of California. It's a move that not only offers the chance to bring future-proof connections to millions of rural California households in the near future, but have wide policy and industry implications for open access fiber networks down the road. 

Local Governments Band Together

The Golden State Connectivity Authority is a joint powers authority (JPA) created by the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), which represents more than three dozen rural counties across the state. RCRC seeks to tackle the variety of shared problems that the state's rural communities face by advancing concrete policy solutions across transportation, energy, natural resources, governance, healthcare, and a collection of other arenas. 

The Golden State Connectivity Authority (see image right) is one of its most recent projects, and explicitly aims to improve Internet access via municipal solutions. Its mission is to "assist rural counties in identifying pathways for development of internet infrastructure within their communities, including the construction of municipal-owned and/or operated internet systems, among other options." GSCA leverages the collective power of the RCRC membership for financing efforts, to go after state and federal funds, and to combine the efforts of bringing together leadership to bridge the digital divide for Californians living outside of urban areas. RCRC member counties constitute about 14 percent of the state's population, or about 2.1 million households. 

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Posted April 15, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Next Tuesday, from 10am to 2pm PST, the California Public Utilities Commission will be hosting its annual public workshop “to facilitate collaboration among regional consortia, stakeholders, local governments, existing facility-based broadband providers and consumers regarding cost-effective strategies to reach the broadband access goal.” 

The agenda will feature panels on state and federal funding, an introduction to the new California Advanced Services Fund infrastructure team to talk about mapping and the state’s line extension program, a presentation from Cruzio Internet on a pilot project it recently completed, and a conversation about rulemaking related to public housing, consortia, and broadband adoption. 

ILSR’s Christopher Mitchell is joining the panel at 10:25am PST on Funding Local Broadband Networks, along with representatives from Anza Electric Cooperative, Next Century Cities, and UC Davis.

See the full agenda and join info here. Find the presentations from the event after the fact here.

Posted March 25, 2022 by Karl Bode

Jefferson County, Washington’s Public Utility District (PUD) is just the latest to take advantage of a flood of new grants — and recently-eliminated restrictions on community broadband — to expand access to affordable fiber across the state.  

Over the last few months, the PUD - situated northwest of Seattle, just across the Puget Sound - has been awarded more than $11 million in grants, including $1 million from the Washington State Public Works board, and another $9.7 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants doled out by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The funds will help the PUD connect 2,600 homes in Gardiner, Quilcene, Cape George, Discovery Bay, and Marrowstone Island over the next two years.

Locally Operated Infrastructure, Affordable Prices, Fast Speeds

Construction is expected to start later in 2022, with the first subscribers to come online sometime in the first half of 2023. A project breakdown says they hope to provide basic speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $65 a month, and speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $90 a month. The network will be open access, which means that additional ISPs (including, presumably, those currently offering service on the existing network) will be able to continue into the expanded areas.The PUD plans to offer a low-income tier for $45/month ($15 after the Affordable Connectivity Program subsidy), which is welcome to see.

The Jefferson County PUD currently provides electricity to 19,000 local residents, and water and septic service to an additional 5,000. While the PUD has spent decades building a fiber network that now connects about 50 businesses in Port Townsend, until 2021 Washington state law prohibited them from providing service directly to users, forcing the PUD to lease access to a third-party ISP to provide retail Internet...

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Posted March 18, 2022 by Karl Bode

Buoyed by an explosion in new grants and the recent elimination of state restrictions on community broadband deployments, Washington State is awash in freshly-funded local broadband proposals that should go a long way toward shoring up affordable Internet access across the Pacific Northwest. 

In addition to Covid relief and various state grants, thirteen Washington State counties, ports and Tribal associations recently received $145 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants aimed at boosting Internet access and affordability statewide. It’s the first tranche of $260 million planned for new infrastructure, and particularly exciting because it looks like nearly all of the funds went to community-led endeavors, with many of the newly built networks operated by local governments. Some projects will result in partnerships with locally rooted providers.

“Infrastructure is the foundation for digital equity,” Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown said of the funding. “Washington state’s goal is to ensure all of our residents have access to affordable high-speed internet, as well as the devices, skills and confidence needed to connect with critical resources.”

State leaders say they received more than $413 million-worth of requests for 36 different projects, and have shared both a list and a map of all approved grants online. 

Essential Aid for Existing Projects

The funds will be a welcome boon for many Washington State Tribal regions, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, which won $4.1 million to help expand fiber access along Highway 155 between Nespelem and Omak, Washington—as well as a project recently profiled by ILSR designed to provide...

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Posted February 22, 2022 by

In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Peggy Schaffer (ConnectME) and Matt Schmit (Connect Illinois) for a closer look at state broadband offices.

The panel will dig into state grant opportunities, what broadband offices look for in partnerships, and how states are getting creative to support ISPs that connect underserved communities.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Livehere on Facebook live, or below.

Posted February 8, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The Pew Charitable Trusts has begun publishing memos that will be useful for state broadband offices as they beef up staff to ensure state broadband grant funds are not wasted and track whether states are awarding grants to proposed projects in a way that advances various state’s goals in building a bridge across the digital divide.

One memo focuses on how allowing providers to object to applications can promote accountability. The second memo examines how state broadband offices can use scoring metrics to evaluate grant applications.

The Challenge Process

The first memo begins noting that by “providing a system for existing high-speed [I]nternet providers to raise concerns about grant applications, (it) can help state broadband offices ensure that public funds are not tapped multiple times for the same project or awarded to areas without sufficient need.”

That can be done through the “challenge process,” which allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to challenge an application if the challenger can demonstrate that they already provide service in a grant application area, have started network construction in that area, or have plans to do so.

The memo boils down four summary points that are “key features from a variety of states.”

• Challenge processes can be an important control to prevent public subsidies from being awarded to areas that are already receiving equivalent service or will receive equivalent service within a set period (e.g., 12 months). The challenge process can also help prevent a project from inappropriately receiving duplicative state, local, and/or federal funding.

• States can require providers to participate in the state’s data collection and mapping efforts in order to engage in the challenge process.

• The documentation required for a valid challenge varies among states, and can include shape files, address-level service information, service speed validation, and a signed affidavit attesting to the service. If allowed by state code, the data collected in the challenge process may be used by the state to update its maps.

• Notably, the challenge process can also refer to objections and evidence submitted by residents and communities to challenge the designated eligibility of a given...

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