Mayors: Is access to strong, affordable broadband for your constituents at the top of your agenda? If not, you might soon miss a one-time opportunity to make your city more competitive.
Broadband is now essential. Not everyone gets it
You know strong broadband is now essential for daily life. Access to education, healthcare, and jobs now depend on broadband. For many of your constituents, internet access is inadequate for this new reality, with few, or no real broadband choices in parts of your city. For others, plans are too expensive.
Help could be on the way, if you act fast
Right now, America’s gearing up to make its largest – and likely last – major public investment in broadband. Within the broadband provisions of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA), your state could get as much as $3 billion to help build next-generation broadband infrastructure.
The largest program – the $42.5 Billion Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) program, is designed to fund capital-intensive, modern broadband infrastructure in communities like yours.
Your city could be entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband projects, depending on:
Your state’s broadband plan, and to what extent you shape it with empirical data
There is a catch – and it’s up to you to fix it
The way BEAD’s prioritization algorithm works means the money will flow by default away from denser urban areas like your city, since:
More eligible providers will self-report adequate service in denser metro areas. It will be harder to prove unserved and underserved locations without defensible, empirical data.
BEAD prioritizes higher-cost projects. Broadband project cost and population density are usually inversely correlated.
This means that, without intervention from you, your city could see very little of this one-time broadband windfall.
How will you ensure your city gets its fair share of BEAD grants?
Luckily – the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) architected a nearly perfect solution for you, if you choose to lead it: Local Coordination. This legal requirement obligates your state to consult with you about your local communities' needs before it sends its final financial ask of the federal government – in the form of a state broadband plan. You’ll have tools available to make your case after the plan is submitted, but you’re far better off to be at the table now, with good, defensible data about your city's current broadband need in hand.
When and where to start
Your state’s broadband planning is underway now. There is still time for Mayors like you to orient your response in order to get ready to get your city’s share, but that window is closing. You need to be at the table, equipped with defensible, empirical data about your city’s current broadband reality.
You can set the foundation with your city's Broadband Audit, with data through the Community Broadband Kit.
Encourage your staff to join the Broadband Grants Community of 800+ broadband professionals, introduce yourselves, and post your city’s broadband efforts & requests for help. Learn about broadband funding, deployment planning and technologies and discuss active challenges.
Want to share your city’s digital inclusion & equity plans with the community? Odds are good that your state director is in the community – it’s a great place to publicly share your city’s broadband vision. Ping Sarah Lai Stirland for help.