What Is the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program?

Oct. 21, 2023
The BEAD program is a multifaceted government funded program that has many subdivisions beneath it.
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Per the government website, Broadband USA, “The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Broadband USA notes that there are many communities lacking access to high-speed internet. Most people in these areas either can't afford it or don't know how to use it. Broadband USA states, “The divide between those who have internet access and those who don't is stark. To create an equitable economy, we all need access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet.”

There are many subdivisions of the BEAD program when it comes to funding, with a significant chunk of funding specifically going toward the Digital Equity Act. It provides $2.75 billion to create three grant programs that foster digital equity and inclusion. The grants intend to ensure that people of all communities have the resources including skills, technology, and capacity required to gain the full benefits of the digital economy.

The Digital Equity Act ties into the Broadband Infrastructure Program. This is a $288 million broadband deployment program directed to collaborating between a state, or subdivisions of a state, and providers of broadband services. The aim of this is to aid in broadband infrastructure deployment to areas requiring it, particularly rural areas.

Broadband USA states that while local networks are imperative for bringing high-speed internet to communities, they aren't enough. Broadband USA further says, “They need to connect to robust, high-capacity national and regional networks. Middle mile infrastructure makes this possible. By connecting to major networks, local networks can ensure reliable high-speed internet service for even the most remote communities.”

This quote brings up the next funded program, the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. For $1 billion in funding the program will lower the cost of bringing high-speed internet to “unserved and underserved communities”.

Some of these communities have their own funding including the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program. This $268 million grant program sends funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The funding helps these higher education facilities purchase broadband internet access service and eligible equipment or to hire and train IT workers.

Broadband USA comments on the program, “The funding received by the colleges and universities allows these institutions of higher learning to positively impact the broadband capacity of their campuses, students and faculty, and surrounding anchor communities, assisting to close the digital divide and provide Internet for All.”

Regarding tribal communities, outside of higher education, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program was created. The $3 billion program is given to tribal governments to be utilized for broadband deployment on tribal lands, as well as for services such as telehealth, improving distance learning and broadband affordability, and fostering digital inclusion. 

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