Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law on November 15, 2021. It provides approximately $65 billion for broadband nationally. Two programs that will be administered directly by the Office of Broadband Development with this funding are the Digital Equity Planning grant and the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grant.
OBD has filed for funding to create a state Digital Equity Plan, due one year from award of funding. Information will be posted to the website once the development of the plan begins. Upon approval of its Digital Equity Plan, the states will receive funding to do capacity grants to implement the plan. Funding for this program is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NTIA guidelines for this program, which must be followed by the states, is available on NTIA's website.
Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD)
The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program provides funding for broadband infrastructure and the preparation of a plan by each eligible entity for how to achieve internet for all. Federal BEAD program funding for broadband infrastructure deployment included a minimum of $100 million for each state. Allocations to each state above the initial funding were announced on June 26, 2023. Minnesota will receive a total of $651,839,368. The individual state amounts were calculated from the number of unserved locations (locations without reliable broadband service of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload) within each state based on new maps that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed as well as the number of such locations in areas deemed to be high cost.
The Office of Broadband Development submitted their Initial Proposal draft for the BEAD program to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on December 22, 2023. This plan was drafted to best mirror Minnesota’s Border-to-Border and Low Population Density Programs that has had nine successful grant rounds since 2014. To receive these reports in an accessible format, please contact email@example.com.
The three priorities for use of BEAD funding are for states to first ensure that all locations that do not have reliable broadband service of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload are served; second, to ensure that underserved locations (those with reliable service of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload but not at or above 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload) are served; and third, to ensure 1G symmetrical speeds to all Community Anchor Institutions. If a state can show that it has allocated funding to achieve the three identified priorities, then a state may use its BEAD funding for non-deployment projects. Minnesota's Initial Proposal provides more specific information on how it will use BEAD funding to achieve the priority goals and at this time, it is anticipated that Minnesota's full BEAD allocation will be necessary to meet the first two priority goals outlined by NTIA. As directed by the Minnesota Legislature, BEAD funding will be distributed to reach unserved and underserved areas through the state's existing Border-to Border-Broadband grant programs. More information on the Border to Border Broadband grant program is available on our website.
As Minnesota's eligible entity, the Office of Broadband Development also submitted the state's BEAD Five-Year Action Plan (Appendix 7.1 OBD Meetings 2014 to 2022 and Appendix 7.2 NTIA Local Coordination Documentation Tracker) to NTIA on July 12, 2023.
Additional information on the federal BEAD program is available on the NTIA website.
Other Broadband Programs Funded by IIJA
The IIJA also included funding to assist eligible households with the monthly cost of broadband service. That program is called the Affordable Connectivity Program and is administered by the FCC. More information is available on our website and also on the FCC's website.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also received funding under the IIJA for its ReConnect program. Information on our website regarding ReConnect and on the USDA website. The Round 4 ReConnect window for submitting applications was September 6, 2022 to November 2, 2022. In April, USDA began to announce recipients of ReConnect Round 4 awards.
The IIJA includes an additional $2 billion for NTIA's Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, a program that NTIA previously implemented under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program directs funding to tribal governments to be used for broadband deployment on tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. NTIA is the administering agency for this funding and has information on its website on how to apply and eligible uses. Several Minnesota tribes have received funding through this program, including the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Lower Sioux Indian Community, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Finally, NTIA is also administering the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. Applications for that program were due to NTIA by September 30, 2022. Awards have not been announced. More information is available on NTIA's website.