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How the FCC National Broadband Map Impacts the BEAD Program, Part 1 of 3: Allocation of Funds

From Alaska to South Carolina, and everywhere in between, we’ve heard from communities about the urgency to expand access to high-speed Internet service. Without Internet access, kids can’t complete their homework, parents can’t apply for jobs, and grandparents drive hours for basic healthcare services. The Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program provides $42.45 billion to help fill these gaps and is an important component of the effort to connect everyone in America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.  

To implement this historic program, Congress directed NTIA to allocate BEAD funding across states, territories and the District of Columbia using data from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) National Broadband Map.  

Mapping Basics

The map has two components: 

  1. The Fabric: a dataset of all locations where Internet service could be installed.
  2. Availability Data: a dataset that shows whether Internet service is available at the locations.

The FCC announced on November 10, 2022, that it would publish the first version of the map on November 18, 2022. Following the FCC’s notice, NTIA said that we would notify states and territories of their BEAD allocations by June 30, 2023. This timetable was designed to provide transparency around the mapping process, give stakeholders time to engage with and provide input to the map, and continue implementation of the BEAD program expeditiously to meet real-life connectivity needs. 

The FCC’s National Broadband Map is a significant improvement over prior efforts to map broadband availability. As noted in the FCC’s November blog post, for the first time ever, the FCC has created a map with location-specific data. Prior versions of the FCC map reported availability data at the census block level, resulting in a map that tended to overstate the number of locations that were served. Additionally, the current FCC National Broadband Map represents the first time that the FCC’s availability map has incorporated a challenge process that allows consumers and stakeholders to provide the FCC with additional data beyond the data reported by ISPs.  

The FCC National Broadband Map itself has improved even since it was published in November 2022 and, as the FCC noted, the map is intended to be iterative and will continue to improve. We continue to work with the FCC, states, territories and stakeholders to support the FCC’s challenge processes as NTIA prepares to use the map in conjunction with our BEAD program.   

Allocation Process 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directs NTIA to use the FCC National Broadband Map to determine how much money each state, territory, and the District of Columbia (which we refer to as “Eligible Entities” for BEAD) will be allocated in the BEAD program. The allocation formula set in the law includes three components: 1) a baseline of $100 million for each state and $25 million for each territory, 2) a calculation of the number of unserved locations in each state divided by the nationwide total of unserved locations, and 3) the number of “high cost” unserved locations in each state divided by the nationwide total of high cost unserved locations.  

The current version of the FCC map reflects 113 million broadband serviceable locations, eight million of which are represented as unserved (roughly 7% of the total).  Due to the size of the data set, it would take an outsized increase or decrease in the number of unserved locations within an Eligible Entity relative to the national total to have a significant impact on the final BEAD allocations. 

The Urgency of the Moment 

Every day we wait to allocate BEAD funds is another day that families across this country will be waiting for access to the Internet. We are eager to get this money out the door to connect these families and ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities and economic resources that Internet service provides. 

To ensure that the map we use for allocations includes the most high-quality data as possible, NTIA, in conjunction with the FCC, has worked closely with states, territories, and other stakeholders to help them provide input to the FCC’s National Broadband Map. NTIA has hosted office hours, held one-on-one meetings, conducted briefings, and will continue to work closely with Eligible Entities and other stakeholders as we drive toward June 30.  

We’ve been encouraged by the engagement from states and territories, stakeholders and thousands of individuals across the country to help improve the FCC National Broadband Map.

BEAD Basics

  1. Unserved: locations that do not have 25/3 Mbps Internet service available. States and territories must prioritize funding for these locations.
  2. Underserved: locations that do not have 100/20 Mbps Internet service available. States and territories must prioritize funding for these locations next.

From day one, we’ve said that this will take a whole-of-nation approach and we look forward to continuing to work across governments, industry and organizations to meet the President’s goal of connecting every community with affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.