The federal grant programs will support state and local efforts to expand high-speed internet access and improve digital equity.
Key deadlines are coming up for states and localities that want a share of the $65 billion in federal funding for broadband-related programs available under the bipartisan infrastructure law.
First up, a deadline on Tuesday, July 12 for states to apply for part of the $60 million in digital equity planning grants in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is administering the broadband funding. Territories and tribes also face a July 12 deadline to submit a notice of intent to apply for the digital equity planning grants.
The grants are intended to help places come up with strategies for improving broadband access among certain groups that are more likely to lack it, such as low-income households, seniors, the incarcerated, veterans, people with disabilities, individuals with language barriers, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural residents.
NTIA expects to award grants through the program around late September.
The dollars are part of $2.75 billion in IIJA grants to advance digital equity through three new grant programs. Money from a $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program will be distributed by formula to states and territories over five years. The funds are meant for implementing digital equity projects and to support the implementation of digital equity plans.
In addition, the infrastructure act created a five-year $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program for states, localities, tribal governments, nonprofits and other organizations.
Another big deadline comes next week. States and territories planning to apply for the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program to expand access to high-speed internet have to submit a letter of intent to apply by July 18. That program will fund broadband infrastructure, mapping service quality, and other efforts to get more people online.
States pursuing this money can request up to $5 million in planning funds. After receiving the planning dollars, jurisdictions will have 270 days to submit a five-year broadband action plan. Each state that applies for the BEAD funding is guaranteed to get at least $100 million.
As of Monday, most of the roughly 50 entities eligible for the BEAD program had either already submitted a letter of intent or told NTIA they planned to submit one, and Iowa and Florida were the only two states that had not done so yet, the agency said.
Kery Murakami is a senior reporter for Route Fifty.