If you’re a city, local ISP or other local jurisdiction interested in forging a public-private partnership to expand your community’s broadband, the Promote Broadband Expansion Grant Program could be a game-changer. This $300 million grant program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is directed to partnerships between a state or local government, and a service provider capable of providing fixed broadband service to areas that do not have currently broadband access, especially rural areas.
This federal pilot program illustrates the U.S. government’s renewed approach to achieving universal access, one that shifts away from subsidizing ISPs and instead prioritizes open access networks and public-private partnerships. This initiative gained momentum from U.S. Rep. James Clyburn’s Affordable, Accessible Internet for All Act (AAIA) and was carried into President Biden’s Americans Jobs Plan.
Who’s eligible to apply?
Partnerships between states, local jurisdictions, and ISPs are eligible to apply. An Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) designation is not required.
NTIA scores priority for project proposals that:
- Are designed to provide broadband service to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area
- Will focus on rural areas (this doesn’t rule out a non-rural proposal)
- Demonstrate that they are the most cost effective, with rural projects being put at the front of the line
- Are designed to provide service of not less than 100/20 Mbps
Please check NTIA’s website for updates on the application timeline as they become available. All grant funds must be expended within a year of being awarded.
The law outlines some important prohibitions consider: Grant funds cannot be used as collateral on loans, nor can they be used to repay or make payments related to a loan. Additionally, if awarded, no more than $50,000 may be utilized to pay for grant application preparation costs.
The benefit to public–private collaboration is how local, state, and Tribal applicants can achieve their broadband goals while reducing their financial risk. Private partners can help expand the availability and affordability of broadband services to residents whom the market has previously overlooked. The Promote Broadband Expansion Grants Program requirement of public-private partnerships is intended to enable fast deployment of proposed projects. You’ll need proof of an intended relationship in your project application.
Keep in mind that this grant program will be looking for financial matches. Based on similar past NTIA grants requiring matches, this could be anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of the total grant.
Next steps: don’t delay!
Grant applications require a targeted proposal. Early on, identify a specific need you want to address. Next, look at your project area and evaluate your market. The Promote Broadband Expansion Grant Program will favor applicants who can serve the greatest number of households in an eligible service area.
Build partnerships. If localities are applying and do not have experience operating their own networks, partnerships with established ISPs can, by extension, demonstrate operational capabilities. Since NTIA will be specifically looking for public-private partnerships for the Promote Broadband Expansion Grant Program, identify who those partners will be.
More information about the program, including requirements for grant applications, can be found here on grants.gov. If you believe you have a project that fits the criteria and seek experienced, regional insight, we can help.
Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) is a not-for-profit wholesale telecommunications mutual corporation that has been serving Washington State since 2000. As a mission-driven organization, NoaNet focuses on bringing world-class telecommunications technology to hard-to-reach communities which lack access to high-speed affordable broadband services.