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Eligibility Information

This Section describes entities eligible for BEAD Program grants (generally, States and Territories of the United States), requirements relating to the provision of matching funds by Eligible Entities and/or other actors, and circumstances that might warrant waiver of the match requirements.

A. Eligible Applicants

Eligible Entities authorized to apply for grants under the BEAD Program are any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In cases of application failure, an Eligible Entity’s political subdivision, or a consortium of such subdivisions, may seek to act in the place of the Eligible Entity. For more information on the ability of political subdivisions to apply in place of Eligible Entities see Section IV.B.10 of this NOFO.

B. Cost Sharing or Matching

1. Match Generally

Except in certain specific circumstances described herein (including projects in designated “high-cost areas” and other cases in which NTIA has waived the matching requirement), in the context of subgrants used to fund broadband network infrastructure deployment, each Eligible Entity shall provide, require its subgrantee to provide, or provide in concert with its subgrantee, matching funds of not less than 25 percent of project costs. Funds from other Federal programs (including funds from the Commission’s Universal Service Fund programs) generally may not be used as matching funds; however, the Infrastructure Act expressly provides that matching funds for the BEAD Program may come from a federal regional commission or authority and from funds that were provided to an Eligible Entity or a subgrantee for the purpose of deploying broadband service under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127; 134 Stat. 178); the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136; 134 Stat. 281), the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law 116-260; 134 Stat. 1182); or the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2; 135 Stat. 4), to the extent permitted by those laws.

Eligible Entities should rigorously explore ways to cover a project’s cost with contributions outside of the BEAD program funding. Matching contributions, including in-kind contributions that lower project costs, demonstrate commitment to a particular project and minimize BEAD funding outlay, extend the reach of the BEAD program funding and help to ensure that every unserved location and underserved location in the United States has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. In some cases, though, a match requirement could deter participation in the BEAD Program by small and non-traditional providers, in marginalized or low-income communities, or could threaten affordability (i.e., if an applicant seeks to offset the cost of a substantial match through higher end user prices). In those cases, an Eligible Entity should consider ways to cover part or all of the provider’s match through Eligible Entity or other funds or seek a match waiver through the process explained below.

A matching contribution may be provided by the subgrantee, an Eligible Entity, a unit of local government, a utility company, a cooperative, a nonprofit or philanthropic organization, a for- profit company, regional planning or governmental organization, a federal regional commission or authority, or any combination thereof. As detailed in Section III.B.5, an Eligible Entity may seek, and the Assistant Secretary may grant, a partial or full waiver of the non-federal match requirement where warranted.

2. Preference for Maximum Subgrantee Contribution and Minimal BEAD Subsidy

While the match may be provided by multiple sources, Eligible Entities are encouraged to require a match from the subgrantee rather than utilizing other sources where it deems the subgrantee capable of providing matching funds.20 This approach will maximize the impact of Eligible Entity funds and funds provided via other federal programs. As detailed below with regard to the subgrantee selection process for last-mile broadband deployment projects, Eligible Entities are also required to incentivize matches of greater than 25 percent from subgrantees wherever feasible (especially where expected operational costs and revenues are likely to justify greater investment by the subgrantee) by focusing on minimizing the BEAD funding outlay on a particular project, to the extent consistent with other programmatic goals described in this NOFO. 21

NTIA will provide technical assistance to Eligible Entities to assist in making these determinations. Eligible Entities will be expected to explain in their Initial Proposals how they intend to ensure that subgrantees will offer the maximum feasible match for each project.22

3. Matches from Other Federal Programs and Entities

Except as expressly provided for in the Infrastructure Act, funds from other Federal programs (including funds from the Commission’s Universal Service Fund programs) may not be used as matching funds. The Infrastructure Act expressly provides that matching funds for the BEAD Program may come from a federal regional commission or authority and from funds that were provided to an Eligible Entity or a subgrantee for the purpose of deploying broadband service under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127; 134 Stat. 178); the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136; 134 Stat. 281), the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law 116-260; 134 Stat. 1182); or the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2; 135 Stat. 4), to the extent permitted by those laws. Eligible Entities are encouraged to consider terms and conditions that may be associated with potential sources of match funds and how those may impact the project overall. For example, if an Eligible Entity utilizes federal regional commission funding as a match, the project will need to comply with all BEAD programmatic requirements and any requirements imposed by the federal regional commission. Likewise, Eligible Entities that use funds from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds or Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund as the source of matching funds for the BEAD Program must comply with the requirements of both the BEAD Program and the relevant Treasury program. Loan funding issued through a federal agency, such as through the USDA ReConnect Program, may also be used as match funding.

4. In-Kind Matches

Matching funds may be provided in the form of either cash or in-kind contributions, so long as such contributions are made consistent with the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth at 2 C.F.R. Part 200.23 In-kind contributions, which may include third-party in-kind contributions, are non-cash donations of property, goods or services, which benefit a federally assisted project, and which may count toward satisfying the non-federal matching requirement of a project’s total budgeted costs when such contributions meet certain criteria.24 In-kind contributions must be allowable and allocable project expenses. The rules governing allowable in-kind contributions are detailed and encompass a wide range of properties and services. NTIA encourages applicants to thoroughly consider potential sources of in-kind contributions that, depending on the particular property or service and the applicable federal cost principles, could include employee or volunteer services; equipment; supplies; indirect costs; computer hardware and software; and use of facilities. In the broadband context this could include, consistent with federal cost principles, waiver of fees associated with access to rights of way, pole attachments, conduits, easements, or access to other types of infrastructure.

5. Match Waivers

In evaluating requests for waiver of the BEAD Program’s non-federal match requirement, NTIA will carefully balance the Program’s various objectives. It is NTIA’s policy to ensure that BEAD funds are used to bring affordable broadband to all Americans. Thus, the Assistant Secretary will generally seek to minimize the BEAD funding outlay on a particular project to extend the Program’s reach, and expects to grant waivers only in special circumstances, when waiver is necessary to advance objectives that are critical to the Program’s success. In order to be considered for a waiver, an Eligible Entity must submit a request that describes the special circumstances underlying the request and explain how a waiver would serve the public interest and effectuate the purposes of the BEAD Program. The Assistant Secretary retains the discretion to waive any amount of the match, including up to the full 25 percent requirement.

20 Rather than using State, Territorial, or local funds as a match to BEAD projects, Eligible Entities are encouraged to use these funding sources on broadband separately and leverage additional subgrantee match commitments. Eligible Entities also must use BEAD Program funds to supplement.

supplant, the amounts that the Eligible Entity would otherwise make available for the purposes for which the grant funds may be used.

21 See supra Section IV.B.7. If the Eligible Entity is considering competing proposals that are materially identical, and one includes a higher proposed total cost but a larger match, whereas the other includes a lower proposed total cost and smaller match, the key consideration for comparative purposes is the amount of the subsidy required, not the proportion of the stated cost that the prospective subgrantee is willing to match.

22 See supra Section IV.B.7.