BEAD Pre-Qualification Application Now Available

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DED’s Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Pre-Qualification Application for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is now live. The BEAD Pre-Qualification Application is the first step for potential BEAD applicants.

The Pre-Qualification Application groups all general and non-scored BEAD application requirements into one application, allowing applicants to respond one time for these functions. Pre-Qualification Applications will be applied to each of the applicants’ BEAD Applications. The Pre-Qualification Application must be started prior to filling out BEAD Scoring Applications.

The Pre-Qualification Application includes four sections:

  1. Entity Information
  2. Capability
  3. Public Funding Received
  4. Compliance and Other Program Certifications

Inside these four categories, applicants will provide information such as SAM.gov ID and organizational charts with resumes, financial statements, and certifications to comply with applicable laws. Templates required for certain fields are available for download on OBD’s Connecting All Missourians webpage.

Broadband Across Missouri StoryMap

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Missouri Broadband Focus Group Study participant areas

Recently, the Community Innovation and Action Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis conducted the Missouri Digital Asset Mapping Focus Group Study. In the study, they hosted 20 focus groups around the state to learn more about the realities of broadband access for Missourians.

To help illustrate their findings, the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems created a StoryMap. Explore the StoryMap to read selected quotes from the focus group participants alongside data to demonstrate the barriers and opportunities for reliable high-speed internet in Missouri.

Learn more about the Missouri Digital Asset Mapping Focus Group Study and StoryMap in a recent highlight by MU Extension.

New Missouri Broadband Map

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The Missouri Public Broadband Availability Interactive Map v1 is now available at https://broadbandmap.mo.gov/  A brief tutorial video is provided below. The interactive map serves as a hub for presenting up-to-date data, including:

  • Unserved/underserved/served locations.*  See service provider, technology, and speed by location.
  • Funded/not funded locations receiving upgrades through already awarded grant funds.See grant fund name and awarded provider by location. The next map deployment will also include a funded area layer showing the boundaries of awarded projects.  
  • Service availability by various geographic boundaries (e.g. legislative district, county, school district). See broadband and digital equity indicator data by selected area.  

*Note- In relation to the BEAD State Challenge Process, this data is a preliminary version as it does not yet reflect Missouri’s proposed pre-challenge modifications (modifications are pending NTIA approval). We will continue to communicate as we have approvals and updates are made.  

The interactive map will also serve as the State Challenge Portal. This additional challenge hub functionality is expected to be released in March and will offer ways for stakeholders to provide feedback.

Provider Registration

Before the State Challenge Portal opens, the Office of Broadband Development is encouraging providers to register in the interactive map. It is essential that ISPs register to not only submit challenges that will guide the distribution of roughly $1.7 billion state allocated BEAD funds, but also respond to challenges against their coverage areas. In the tutorial video below, instructions for registering begin at minute mark 4:36 

The Affordable Connectivity Program May “Go Away” Just When it is Needed Most

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They say timing is everything, and that certainly likely will be the case as we move forward this year to implement major components of the 2021 Federal Infrastructure legislation (the Infrastructure Act). You may recall that the Infrastructure Act appropriated $65 billion with the objective of providing every residence, business and institution in the United States a high-speed internet connection – broadband, and the skills to use it. Read more…

The Affordable Connectivity Program May “Go Away” Just When it is Needed Most

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By Marc McCarty

They say timing is everything, and that certainly likely will be the case as we move forward this year to implement major components of the 2021 Federal Infrastructure legislation (the Infrastructure Act). You may recall that the Infrastructure Act appropriated $65 billion with the objective of providing every residence, business and institution in the United States a high-speed internet connection – broadband, and the skills to use it. The Act has three goals: building out the infrastructure needed to connect unserved and underserved locations (broadband “access”), getting individuals the skills-based training and resources they need to use a broadband connection effectively (“adoption”), and finally, making broadband affordable for households that lack the financial resources to subscribe for the broadband connection they need (“affordability”).

The rationale for this “three-prong” approach is logical. It makes little sense to build out a broadband network in unconnected communities if most of the targeted individuals are afraid to go online or lack the skills needed to use the internet applications that would help them the most. These skills, include using the internet to start a business, pay bills and bank online, connect with a health care provider, or get an advanced education certification or degree. Equally obvious, having a fiber optic broadband connection at your home is of no value if you can’t afford to subscribe for service, or if you can’t afford a basic device to connect to the internet efficiently.

With this in mind, an earlier Blog noted that the Infrastructure Act had allocated at least $46 billion of grants and low interest loans for broadband access, up to least $4.75 billion for broadband adoption programs, and $14.2 billion for broadband affordability (the Affordable Connectivity Program or “ACP”).

The ACP was designed to permanently replace the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“ECB”) a similar temporary program enacted during the COVID pandemic. Like the ECB, ACP is targeted to help families that lack financial resources pay for the internet service they need to use the internet effectively. While there are several ways to qualify for ACP, generally families earning less than twice the annual poverty income ($60,000 for a family of 4) are eligible for the ACP.

The ACP provides these households a $30 per month credit that can be applied to monthly cost of internet service and a one-time $100 credit toward the cost of a desktop, laptop or tablet computer to connect to the internet. The program began funding in 2022 and as of last week, over 22.5 million households were receiving benefits. One advantage of the ACP is that the “credit” can be applied by families toward any level of broadband service offered, so even if a household was able to pay for some internet connectivity before, the ACP enabled them to upgrade to a higher more expensive level of service, so they can take advantage of applications such as telemedicine and online learning that require a faster and more stable internet connection.

Many Missouri families now use this benefit. In several rural Missouri counties more than one in five households that are connected to the internet are receiving ACP. The truth is ACP has been so successful, that it is about to run out of money. The FCC administers this program, and it has already instructed internet service providers (“ISPs”) to send out the first of three written notices beginning January 25, to customers warning them the benefit will expire (likely sometime in May).

The ACP has wide support among participants, internet providers and the general public. Last week bipartisan legislation was introduced to extend funding for the ACP through the end of 2024. Certainly given the political environment, that may be the best we can do at this time, and even in this case passage of this legislation likely will not occur unless constituents make their wishes known.

Ironically, this comes at the very time when almost all the Infrastructure Act money set aside for broadband access (BEAD) and broadband adoption (DEA) remains unspent! The delay in funding BEAD and DEA occurred for many reasons, some of which I’ve written about already. However, Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development (OBD) now awaits approval of its “Initial Proposal” to distribute the first 20% of the $1.7 Billion dollars of BEAD funding along with a smaller DEA “State Capacity Grant” to fund broadband adoption. Those approvals (granted by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency –NTIA) are expected as early as late spring, followed by competitive grants that could begin funding new projects by year-end.

For a variety of reasons, the State’s BEAD proposal primarily contemplates using existing private and public ISPs to extend broadband service to the 400,000 locations in the state with no – or with inadequate – broadband access. Those ISPs provide access to the internet (fund capital expansion, maintain, and operate) primarily through subscriber revenues paid by businesses and residents. Locations needing broadband access lack it in most cases because the ISPs that potentially could serve them cannot make an adequate profit to justify the investment. The objective of the BEAD program is to use just enough public money to induce ISPs to expand service to these unserved and underserved locations.

For example, if the average cost of extending service to a group of locations was $5,000 per location, but an ISP could only be profitable if installation costs were no more than $1,500 per location, an efficient BEAD grant program would provide the ISP a grant of $3,500 per location, conditioned on the ISP going forward to provide broadband access to all of these unserved locations. But that example assumes that families and businesses in those locations actually will subscribe for the service (at levels as high as – or higher— than other areas where service is currently available). In other words – ISPs don’t need or necessarily want more locations with access to the internet – instead they want more locations with internet subscribers.

That is one practical reason why both the DEA, and the ACP exist. From a purely economic standpoint, both of these programs are designed to work alongside BEAD to increase demand for broadband service (the “take rate” as it’s known in the industry). The DEA gives folks the skills needed to appreciate and safely use internet based applications and technologies; the ACP makes that service affordable, so families to pay for the service they need.

Taken together one can think of these broadband programs BEAD, the DEA and the ACP as something like a three legged stool. The three legs of that stool provide funding for broadband access, adoption and affordability. Remove one of those legs, affordability in this case, and the stool – a $65 billion stool – may well topple over.

Of course there are many good reasons for providing financial assistance to families that can’t afford the broadband service they need besides creating a broadband network that is financially viable. Connecting most businesses and individuals to broadband has led to extraordinary gains in productivity and quality of life, but as the COVID pandemic illustrated, those gains have been uneven, with millions lacking adequate internet service and unable to use these new internet-based applications. We all pay when we leave the most economically vulnerable families disconnected to the internet applications we take for granted, in higher costs for healthcare, basic government services, substandard education, and fewer economic opportunities. A program like the ACP can help remove financial barriers to internet connectivity, and certainly it can be justified for that reason alone. However, allowing a program like the ACP to go away after all the work done over the past two years, and just as we are ready to spend over $45 billion on broadband expansion, is most certainly a mistake.

States are About to Dole Out Federal Funding. Not All Are Ready

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This story was originally published by The Conversation.

When the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed in late 2021, it included $42.5 billion for broadband internet access as part of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. The program aims to ensure that broadband access is available throughout the country. This effort differs from previous federal broadband programs because it promised to allocate the funding to individual states and allow them to figure out the best way to distribute it. Read more…

Office of Broadband Development forms Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council

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October 17, 2023 Jefferson City, Mo. The Department of Economic Development’s (DED) Office of Broadband Development (OBD) announced today that it has formed an Advisory Council to inform planning for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and Digital Equity Act (DEA).

“The Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council is an invaluable part of giving citizens a voice as we develop plans to expand internet access,” said Michelle Hataway, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development. “Broadband is a necessity in today’s economy, and we want our initiatives to reflect the needs of all Missourians.”

Members of the Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council will contribute to the state’s plans for BEAD and DEA funds designed to improve broadband infrastructure and increase access. Responsibilities include advising on policy questions and program design, commenting on draft documents, and identifying connectivity needs across the state. Members will also serve as community ambassadors to encourage participation in efforts while engaging stakeholders statewide.

“We sincerely appreciate the commitment of our Advisory Council members as we continue working toward a fully-connected future,” said BJ Tanksley, Director of the Office of Broadband Development. “Hearing from citizens, stakeholders, and communities is absolutely vital to developing effective plans for broadband expansion. We’re excited to have the guidance of this diverse group of leaders and look forward to the plans their expertise will help create.”

The Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council will support OBD’s efforts throughout the lifetime of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding. While inaugural members have been asked to serve until at least December 2023, OBD has applied for BEAD funding to support the council through 2028. Council members will meet twice per year to guide OBD’s planning and development of its Five Year Action Plan, Initial Proposal, and Final Proposal for the BEAD program. Members will also support the development of the State Digital Opportunity Plan for the DEA.

OBD’s Connecting All Missourians initiative is aimed at ensuring all Missourians have quality and affordable internet access. The initiative is focused on public participation and feedback to inform planning for federal funds. More information about OBD’s broadband expansion efforts are available on DED’s website.

Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council Inaugural Members
Aaron Deacon, Managing Director, KC Digital Drive
Tracy Graham, Western District Commissioner, Audrain County
Garrett Hawkins, President, Missouri Farm Bureau
Cassie Johnson, Deputy Director of Community Programs, Missouri Housing Development Commission
Crystal Jones, Executive Director, Perry County Economic Development Authority
Dan Mehan, CEO, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Rachel Mutrux, Director, Missouri Telehealth Network
Kevin Sandlin, Executive Director, Missouri Association of Rural Education
Richard Sheets, Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
Kristen Sorth, Director and CEO, St. Louis County Library
Dr. Darius Watson, Executive Director of Academic Initiatives, Lincoln University
State Representative Louis Riggs, District 5
State Representative Jay Mosley, District 68
State Senator Barbara Anne Washington, District 9
State Senator Karla Eslinger, District 33
Chris Chinn, Director, Department of Agriculture
Michelle Hataway, Acting Director, Department of Economic Development

Fact Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Over $40 Billion to Connect Everyone in America to Affordable, Reliable, High-Speed Internet

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Largest Internet Funding Announcement in History Kicks Off Administration-Wide Investing in America Tour

High-speed internet is no longer a luxury – it is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school, access health care, and to stay connected with family and friends. Yet, more than 8.5 million households and small businesses are in areas where there is no high-speed internet infrastructure, and millions more struggle with limited or unreliable internet options. Just like Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act brought electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, President Biden and Vice President Harris are delivering on their historic commitment to connect everyone in America to reliable, affordable high-speed internet by the end of the decade.

Today, the Department of Commerce announced funding for each state, territory and the District of Columbia for high-speed internet infrastructure deployment through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program—a $42.45 billion grant program created in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and administered by the Department of Commerce. This announcement—the largest internet funding announcement in history—kicks off the three-week Administration-wide Investing in America tour, where President Biden, Vice President Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Cabinet members, and Senior Administration Officials will fan out across the country to highlight investments, jobs, and projects made possible by President Biden’s economic agenda.

Among the highlights:

  • Awards range from $27 million to over $3.3 Billion, with every state receiving a minimum of $107 million.
  • 19 states received allocations over $1 billion with the top 10 allocations in Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
  • With these allocations and other Biden administration investments, all 50 states, DC, and the territories now have the resources to connect every resident and small business to reliable, affordable high-speed internet by 2030.

Details related to the BEAD allocation for the states, D.C., and territories, as well as the total Federal investment in high-speed internet in each State and Territory are available here.

In addition to helping connect everyone in America to high-speed internet, this funding will support manufacturing jobs and crowd in private sector investment by using materials Made in America.  For example, anticipating this major investment in high-speed internet infrastructure deployment, earlier this year, fiber optic cable manufacturers CommScope and Corning announced $47 million and $500 million expansions of their domestic manufacturing capacity, which will create hundreds of good-paying American jobs in North Carolina. These investments are part of the nearly $500 billion in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments spurred by the President’s Investing in America agenda. The Investing in America agenda represents the most significant upgrade to our nation’s infrastructure in generations—an investment larger than FDR’s Rural Electrification effort, Eisenhower’s effort to build the Interstate Highway system, and the construction of the Panama Canal.

Internet for All

Today’s announcement of BEAD funds is just one component of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to ensure that everyone in America has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.  In recent weeks, the Administration has announced over $700 million in USDA ReConnect awards, over $900 million in NTIA Middle Mile awards and launched the Online for All campaign to increase ACP enrollment and visibility.   Beyond BEAD, billions have already been announced or distributed to all states and territories to build out high-speed internet infrastructure by the Biden-Harris Administration.

In addition to BEAD, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes:

  • $14.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible households up to $30/month (up to $75/month on qualifying Tribal Lands) off their internet bill, as well as a one-time $100 toward a desktop, laptop or tablet computer offered by participating internet service providers. Thanks to commitments by over 20 internet service providers, millions of Americans are using the Affordable Connectivity Program to access internet for free. Today, 19 million Americans are enrolled in this program. Households can check their eligibility and sign up at GetInternet.gov.
  • $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act, which provides grants to ensure communities have the skills and support needed to take advantage of high-speed internet connections;
  • An additional $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which provides grants to federally recognized Tribal governments, Tribal organizations, Tribal Colleges and Universities, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and Alaska Native Corporations for high-speed internet deployment on Tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, high-speed internet affordability, and digital inclusion;  
  • $2 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Reconnect Program, which provides loans and grants primarily to build high-speed internet infrastructure in eligible rural areas;  
  • $1 billion for the Middle Mile Program, which provides funding for the “middle mile” backbone of internet networks.

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan also included over $25 billion for high-speed internet, including:

  • The Department of Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) provides $10 billion to states, territories, and Tribes for which high-speed internet is an eligible use. Today, over $7 billion has already been dedicated to high-speed internet deployment and connectivity across 45 states;
  • The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) delivered funding across the country to support the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. About $8 billion is being used by states, territories, Tribes, and local governments for high-speed internet deployment and connectivity; and,
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) $7 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program helped schools and libraries close the “homework gap,” providing schools and libraries with 10.5 million connected devices and over 5 million internet connections.

Additional information on Biden-Harris high-speed internet programs and funding is available at InternetForAll.Gov.