Four themes to watch for in NTIA’s BEAD NOFO Thumbnail Image

Four themes to watch for in NTIA’s BEAD NOFO

The Biden administration is expected to issue a notice soon that lays out the parameters of the $42.5 billion in broadband funding allocated by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will invite states to submit letters of intent to apply for up to $5 million in planning grants.

Here are four themes that are expected to be addressed in the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s NOFO:

1. Local Coordination

Learning from prior broadband grant programs, the NTIA could be arming communities with tools to fight back against incumbent shenanigans. Look for Local Coordination to be key among these tools.

The NTIA stressed the importance of local coordination in its Request for Comments back in January.

The NTIA wrote: “Community engagement is critical to eliminating barriers to broadband access and adoption. NTIA views strong involvement between states and local communities as key to ensuring that the broadband needs of all unserved and underserved locations are accounted for in state plans submitted for funding.

“What requirements should NTIA establish for states/territories to ensure that local perspectives are critical factors in the design of state plans?”

The question spurred hundreds of comments.

2. Challenge Processes

NTIA could also beef up the challenge process, again, learning from historic incumbent monopoly reactions, to include tools for communities as well as states to challenge allocations.

The IIJA states that the NTIA should allow states to challenge the amounts of money it decides to allot them based on forthcoming broadband coverage maps issued by the Federal Communications Commission. ( The maps are known as “Fabric," and are estimated to arrive in Fall of this year.) It also states that the FCC should resolve the disputes within 90 days of the final response of the challenged party.

This will also be a hot issue that state and local governments will be scanning the NOFO for since many states have constructed their own broadband coverage maps in anticipation of federal broadband funding. 

3. Affordability

“Affordability is a key objective of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs,” the NTIA said in its RFC. “What factors should be considered in the deployment of BEAD funds to help drive affordability beyond the low-cost option?

This has been something that is being widely discussed in the broadband community. It’s a complex issue that ties in with several existing programs, and it is something that was highlighted earlier this week when the administration announced that 20 ISPs had agreed to provide what is essentially “free” service to Affordable Connectivity Program recipients.   

4. BEAD Timelines

For a BEAD timeline, read this BEAD timeline article

Stay tuned for more on the NTIA’s BEAD, Middle Mile and Digital Equity NOFOs, the first two of which are expected to be published on Friday afternoon.

Don’t get NOFO FOMO! Join the broadband grants community to stay informed. And you can get a head start on your competition: pre-enroll in’s grant applicant R&D portal today.

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