Applying for BEAD initial planning funds? Here's what state broadband offices need to do Thumbnail Image

Applying for BEAD initial planning funds? Here's what state broadband offices need to do

All states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia must submit detailed project and budget narratives to the Biden administration by August 15th if they're planning to apply for BEAD grants.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has made a packet with detailed instructions available to state and territory level broadband offices. 

Here's the basic checklist of documents required: 

  • Project Narrative
  • SF 424 (Application for Federal Assistance)
  • SF 424C (Budget Information – Construction Programs)
  • Detailed Budget Justification
  • Budget Narrative
  • Negotiated Indirect Cost rate Agreement – as applicable
  • CD-511 (certification of lobbying activities)
  • SF-LLL (disclosure of lobbying activities) as applicable
  • registration

The Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA,) otherwise known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, made a total of $65 billion available to close the digital divide. The grant program is known as the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program. It also includes funds for digital equity, which the NTIA expects grant recipients to use concurrently as they plan for new broadband networks to unserved and underserved locations.

States can apply for an initial $5 million, which they can use over five years, to do their broadband planning. Territories and D.C., have access to $1.25 million. 

Instructions from the NTIA state that applicants should indicate who they're working with in the form of partners and subrecipients, and that project summaries should outline “how the project will advance the objectives of the BEAD program as well as specific objectives outlined in the NOFO for Initial Planning Funds and Five-Year Action Plan.”

Applicants must also provide high-level financial figures and budget information, and limit their summaries to 1,000 words.  

Below are a list of eligible costs that can be incurred for BEAD funds used for broadband planning. The table came from the NTIA's planning documents. 

Administration and Legal Expenses
  • Publications, outreach and communications support
  • Establishing, operating and increasing capacity of a broadband office that oversees broadband programs and broadband deployment in an eligible entity
  • Reasonable post-NOFO pre-award expenses in an amount not to exceed $100,000 relating to the preparation of program submissions to the NTIA (such as a Letter of Intent) or adding additional capacity to state or territorial broadband offices in preparation for the BEAD program may be re-imbursed if they are incurred after the publication of the NOFO and prior to the issuance of the grant reward from the NTIA, except that lobbying costs and contingency fees are not reimbursable from grant funds.
Other architectural and engineering fees
  • Asset mapping across the eligible entity to catalogue broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities occurring within the eligible entity
  • Conducting surveys of unserved, underserved and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption
  • Research and data collection including initial identification of unserved locations and underserved locations
  • The development of a preliminary budget for pre-planning activities
  • Providing technical assistance to potential subgrantees, including through workshops and events
  • Training for employees of the  broadband program or office of the eligible entity or employees or political subdivisions of the eligible entity, and related staffing capacity or consulting or contracted support to effectuate the goals of the BEAD Program
  • Other uses approved in advance writing by the Assistant Secretary (including in response to an eligible entity's request) that support goals of the program.
  • Other uses approved in advance writing by the Assistant Secretary (including in response to an Eligible Entity's request) that support the goals of the program.

The NTIA also provides examples of what a budget narrative would look like, as well as other planning templates. 

Fund recipients have 270 days, or about 9 months after they receive the grants to provide the NTIA with a 5-year action plan. For more detail on this, refer to's Annotated Guide to the BEAD NOFO. provides detailed broadband availability maps of served, unserved, underserved, and related categories of "likely underserved," and “arguably underserved" areas. For more detailed explanations of how we do this, read “Why Ready Speed Rank,” "How Ready Speed Rank Works," and see how the maps can be used to create "project areas."

Check them out, and contact us for more information.  

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