Report Rates States on Prospects for Successful BEAD Programs

States that are likely to have the greatest success with their BEAD rural broadband funding programs include Idaho, Oregon, Michigan, Iowa, Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia and Maine, according to a report from The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The ITIF is a nonprofit research institute focused on technology policy.

States most at risk of having successful BEAD programs include Delaware, Nevada, Montana, Kentucky and Indiana, according to ITIF.

State BEAD Programs

ITIF used three main criteria in its analysis, and not everyone will agree with all the criteria, particularly the first one.

ITIF advocates for states to rely on a range of technologies to maximize their broadband coverage. These should run the gamut from fiber networks to low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which would be used where the cost of a fixed connection is prohibitive.

The idea is that fiber may be the best technology for future growth, but that using less expensive technologies is a more efficient way of chipping away at the digital divide today.

ITIF’s specific recommendations regarding this criterion include:

· States should not label locations as “unserved” based solely on their covering technology

· State objectives should prioritize coverage reaching 100/20 Mbps down/up and a range of technologies

· States’ proposed subgrantee selection processes should neither preference nor discourage any particular provider type

· States should set and use the extremely high cost-per-location threshold in such a way that it maximizes high-quality coverage, not fiber coverage

The second criterion is that states should create a streamlined regulatory environment that minimizes funds wasted on overcoming disjointed policies or inefficient regulations.

As ITIF sees it: “There is perhaps no greater potential area for wasted BEAD funds than in inefficient or outdated regulations that divert resources from broadband buildout.”

The recommendations to address this:

· States should allow area and multiple dwelling unit challenges to streamline the initial challenge process and arrive at the most accurate maps

· States should waive all existing state laws that preference—or disadvantage—municipal providers

· States should take a consistent, proactive approach to readying communities for broadband deployment

· States should build strong, collaborative structures to govern their broadband approach

The third criterion is that states should focus on—and articulate a plan for—digital inclusion within their BEAD plans.

States can use leftover BEAD funding to fuel digital inclusion efforts. This can build momentum and bolster ISPs’ business cases for building networks. The ITIF points out that the NTIA found that lack of interest in connectivity “explained over 75 percent of the offline population.” Digital inclusion therefore is vital, ITIF said.

The recommendations for this criterion:

· States should account for community impact in their BEAD subgrantee selection process.

· States should articulate a thoughtful approach to nondeployment activities and should intend to address digital inclusion within BEAD.

· States should show evidence of collaboration and overlap between their bead and digital equity plans.

· States should ensure accessibility and implement programs at the most local levels to maximize diverse participation.


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