Broadband and Cybersecurity

Broadband & Cybersecurity

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) aims to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment. The legislation will also help lower prices for internet service and help close the digital divide, so that more Americans can make full use of internet access.

Funding Overview:
This funding falls into 7 major program areas– (1) the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program ($42.45 billion), (2) the Affordable Connectivity Program ($14.2 billion); (3) Digital Equity Planning, Capacity and Competitive Grants ($2.75 billion); (4) the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program ($2 billion), (5) Rural Broadband Programs at the Department of Agriculture ($2 billion); (6) the Middle Mile Grant Program ($1 billion); and (7) Private Activity Bonds ( ~$600 million).

The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program is a formula-based grant program to States, territories and the District of Columbia primarily for the purposes of State broadband planning and deployment. It can also be used for broadband data collection and mapping; to promote broadband adoption, including through the provision of affordable internet-connected devices; to provide Wi-Fi or reduced-cost internet access to multi-family housing units; and for other uses that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration determines are necessary to facilitate the goals of the program. States will distribute funds through a competitive grant program. Funding recipients have an obligation to offer a low-cost plan as a condition of receiving funding for broadband deployment. Future-proof deployments are prioritized. Each State, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, will receive at least $100 million. The remainder of the funds will be allocated based on a formula that considers the number of locations in each State or territory unserved by broadband and the number of high cost unserved locations. This distribution is based on FCC maps currently being finalized, though Alaska is expected to receive a significant amount of funding via BEAD on the basis of unserved & underserved communities.

The Middle Mile Grant Program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will provide grants for the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure to eligible entities, including, but not limited to, telecommunications companies, technology companies, electric utilities, and utility cooperatives. 2022 Middle Mile Grant applications are open until September 30th, 2022.

The Digital Equity Planning, Digital Equity Capacity, and Digital Equity Competitive Grants are three National Telecommunications and Information Administration-administered grant programs (two formula-based and one competitive) to plan for and then promote digital inclusion and equity for communities that lack the skills, technologies and support needed to take advantage of broadband connections. Grants can be used to accelerate the adoption of broadband through digital literacy training, workforce development, devices access programs, and other digital inclusion measures.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is an existing National Telecommunications and Information Administration program that provides grants to federally recognized Tribal governments, Tribal organizations, Tribal Colleges and Universities, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and Alaska Native Corporations for broadband deployment on Tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (based on the Emergency Broadband Benefit) provides a subsidy of up to $30/month for low-income families (up to $75/month for low-income families on Tribal Lands) to use toward the internet service plan of their choice offered by participating internet service providers, as well as a one-time $100 towards a desktop, laptop or tablet computer offered by participating internet service providers.

The Broadband ReConnect Program, administered by the Rural Utilities Service at the Department of Agriculture, will provide almost $2 billion in loans and grants toward the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. Companies, cooperatives, and State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments may all apply for ReConnect funding.

Private Activity Bonds – the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill allows States and local governments to issue private activity bonds to support broadband deployment in rural areas.

The above information comes from the BIL Guidebook available at build.gov.

Funds for local recovery and the tribal Capital Improvements Program are two sources of funding, predating BIL, that can also be used for broadband infrastructure improvement.

Cybersecurity

State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program — This new $1 billion program at the Department of Homeland Security makes available federal funds to state, local, and tribal governments to address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to information systems that they own or operate. Applications will likely open during the third quarter of 2022.

Smart Grid Investment Grant Program and Energy Sector Operational Support For Cyber Resilience Program — These two Department of Energy programs will provide $3 billion and $50 million, respectively, for electric utilities, including municipal and co-operative utilities, to modernize the electricity grid and increase resilience to cybersecurity threats. Applications for the Smart Grid program are expected to be open by the end of 2022, and applications for the Cyber Resilience program are expected to be open in the Summer of 2022.

Agencies

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) – One of the lead agencies for broadband deployment funding under the BIL, NTIA is a great resource for information and technical assistance. Some key resources sponsored by them are:

  • Internet for All – An information clearinghouse on federal broadband programs, this site provides information (webinars, news, guides) about programs and resources from the NTIA, FCC, USDA, DOC, and others.
  • BroadbandUSA – Find more details about NTIA programs, like technical assistance

FCC – As the agency in charge of mapping the extent and speed of broadband service, the FCC will play a large role in determining how funds are allocated under BIL. They are also the agency responsible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which helps reduce the cost of broadband service in households across the country.

Alaska Dept. of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) – Home of the developing State Broadband Office, the DCCED helped lead the development of the Alaska Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Report, released in November 2021. This office will help lead planning efforts for BIL funding, more details will be posted here as they are available.