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NTIA’s Role in Implementing the Broadband Provisions of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Congress has taken a significant step forward in achieving the Administration’s goal of providing broadband access to the entire country. The IIJA sets forth a $65 billion investment into broadband, for which $48.2 billion will be administered by NTIA’s newly established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.

This investment will leverage NTIA’s experience in promoting broadband infrastructure development and digital inclusion efforts through its BroadbandUSA initiative as well as current grant programs, including the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), and the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program. Additionally, this investment will enhance other, established Federal broadband initiatives offered through the U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

NTIA is excited to play a major role in the endeavor to connect every American to high-speed, affordable broadband. We intend to work closely with all stakeholders, including State and local governments, Tribal governments, industry, and community leaders, as well as across the Federal government to ensure that this bold investment is targeted to those who need it most. In the coming months, we will begin to convene virtual listening sessions and other outreach activities to discuss the key broadband program provisions in the IIJA. We intend to use these webinars as an opportunity for the public and other stakeholders to provide input into the implementation of these new programs. 

NTIA’s coming role in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

NTIA will establish six broadband programs as directed by the IIJA. The largest of these new NTIA programs is the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The BEAD Program provides $42.45 billion, to be distributed among states, territories, D.C., and Puerto Rico, for projects that support broadband infrastructure deployment and adoption. Eligible entities will receive initial funds to support broadband planning and related capacity efforts, from mapping, staffing state/territory broadband offices, to outreach and coordination with local communities.  After a preliminary planning phase and once the FCC releases location-based mapping of broadband availability, the remaining funding will be allocated based on a formula that considers the number of unserved and high-cost locations in the state. States and territories will then propose projects that meet the statutory priorities, the first priority being funding  to provide 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). 

Also, $1 billion will be appropriated to NTIA for the creation of the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. The purpose of this grant program is to expand and extend middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas to the internet backbone. 

An additional $2 billion will be provided to the existing Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, an NTIA program previously implemented under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. TBCP directs funding to tribal governments to be used for broadband deployment on tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. 

$2.75 billion will be distributed through the Digital Equity Act Programs to promote digital inclusion and equity to ensure that all individuals and communities have the opportunity to acquire the same skills, technology, and capacity needed to engage in the Nation’s digital economy. These programs include the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, a $60 million formula grant program for states and territories to develop digital equity plans; the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, a $1.44 billion formula grant program for states and territories to implement digital equity projects and support the implementation of digital equity plans; and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, a $1.25 billion discretionary grant program for specific types of political subdivisions to implement digital equity projects.

Additional Funding for Broadband in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Additionally, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates funding for programs run by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

$2 billion will be appropriated for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service—Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program, under which recipients are obligated to utilize $5 million of their award for the establishment and growth of cooperatives to offer broadband.

In an extension of an FCC program to provide direct subsidies to qualifying households for the purchase of broadband service, the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Fund will receive an appropriation of $14.2 billion.

NTIA will continue to provide updates on the details of these programs as more information becomes available. Be sure to subscribe to BroadbandUSA updates to be notified about grant program guidance, updates, and webinars.