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How the FCC National Broadband Map Impacts the BEAD Program, Part 2 of 3: The Role of States and Territories in Selecting Locations Eligible for BEAD Funding

NTIA soon will announce allocations of an historic amount of funding to help bring affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service to everyone in America. This funding will help ensure everyone has access to the economic resources and opportunities the Internet provides. In order to make the best use of this funding, we need an evolving understanding of where high-speed Internet service is and is not available. 

As described in our first post, one of the primary uses of the FCC’s National Broadband Map for the purposes of the BEAD program is the allocation process – the process of determining the amount of BEAD funds between the states, territories, and the District of Columbia (“Eligible Entities”).  

BEAD Eligible Entity Challenge Process:  

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.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires each Eligible Entity to determine the locations and community anchor institutions within its jurisdiction that are eligible for BEAD funding and conduct a process to validate and finalize those eligibility determinations.  This process is designed to give each Eligible Entity the flexibility to enable infrastructure projects that will have the most impact on the ground.  The FCC National Broadband Map is the foundation of this effort, but Eligible Entities are not restricted to using the FCC National Broadband Map alone.   

Step one in this process is for Eligible Entities to develop a state map, using the FCC National Broadband Map as a foundation. Each Eligible Entity will have the ability, with NTIA’s approval, to modify the set of locations it proposes to make eligible for BEAD funding. These modifications can reflect data sources that are not used in the FCC National Broadband Map. Additionally, Eligible Entities have an obligation to remove locations subject to an enforceable federal, state, or local commitment to deploy qualifying broadband.  

Step two is the challenge process.  Eligible Entities must initially allow local and tribal governments, nonprofits, and Internet service providers to challenge whether service is available at a given location. Next, Internet service providers and Tribal governments will have the opportunity to respond to these challenges. Finally, the Eligible Entity will adjudicate any challenges that are not accepted by the Internet service provider to determine the final list of locations that will be eligible for BEAD funding.   

This process has two major benefits. 

  1. Stakeholders will have another opportunity to challenge the availability of service at a given broadband serviceable location so that all unserved and underserved locations are connected.  
  2. BEAD program funding will be directed to locations that that are not receiving other funding to provide qualifying broadband, thereby maximizing the federal investment.  

In short, the National Broadband Map provides the foundation for determining where Eligible Entities will deploy BEAD funding, but each Eligible Entity will be able to tailor its own BEAD challenge process to ensure that the final list of eligible locations is accurate and appropriate.  As this process kicks off across states, NTIA strongly recommends that interested parties participate in these processes to ensure their views are taken into account.  

We closed the last blog noting that this is a whole-of-nation effort. We look forward to working with states and territories to support this process and with stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard.  Only with this continued, joint effort, will we meet President Biden’s goal of connecting every community with affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.