How the
Northwest Connects

Funding the Road to Broadband: CERB Rural Broadband Funding Opportunities

The Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) was formed in 1982 to respond to local economic development in Washington State communities. CERB provides funding to local governments and federally-recognized tribes for public infrastructure which supports private business growth and expansion. Eligible projects under this Board include domestic and industrial water, storm water, wastewater, public buildings, telecommunications–including broadband infrastructure, and port facilities. Recently, CERB received a windfall of funding from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Account in the amount of $25 million for fiscal years 2021-2023.

CERB provides low-interest loan/grant packages to local governments and federally-recognized Indian tribes, financing the cost to build infrastructure to provide high-speed, open-access broadband service, to rural underserved communities, for the purpose of community economic development. For entities with a plan in place, the time to apply is now!

Areas in Washington State considered “rural” – Jurisdictions in rural counties and rural communities are eligible for the Prospective Development & Rural Broadband Programs. Rural counties are defined as those with a population density of fewer than 100 persons per square mile, or a county smaller than 225 square miles, as determined by the Office of Financial Management (RCW 43.160.020). The program’s Board has defined rural communities in urban counties as those that are either cities within an urban county that have a population of 19,999 or less, or federally recognized Indian tribes within an urban county. View the entire list of Washington qualifying counties, communities and tribes here.

Who can apply – Eligible Applicants include port districts, counties, cities, towns, special purpose districts, tribes and any other municipal corporations or quasi-municipal corporations.

Eligible broadband projects – Eligible projects are those that encourage, foster, develop, and improve broadband within the state in order to:

  • Drive job creation, promote innovation, and expand markets for local businesses; or
  • Serve the ongoing and growing needs of local education systems, health care systems, public safety systems, industries and businesses, governmental operations, and citizens; and
  • Improve accessibility for underserved communities and populations.

By definition, “Broadband” means networks of deployed telecommunications equipment and technologies necessary to provide high-speed Internet access and other advanced telecommunications services. These include but are not limited to cable modem, fiber, wireless, satellite, broadband over powerlines (BPL). Within this scope there are definitely exclusions. For example, these funds are not intended to facilitate gambling or retail shopping developments, among other ineligibilities. Know before you start by checking.

Funding Availability

CERB offers loans at $2 million maximum per project. Grants are available up to 50% of the total award, determined by the underwriting process and debt service coverage ratio (DSCR). Applicants must:

  • Provide a cash match of 20% of the total project cost.
  • Demonstrate feasibility with a supporting study.

Interest Rates: 1-3%

Term: Up to 20 years

Ongoing application cycles – Applications for all of CERB’s funding programs are considered on an ongoing basis. Its Board meets every two months to consider projects and make funding decisions. View revolving application review deadlines for FY 2021-2023 here.

Rural communities have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in their broadband infrastructure to improve their citizens’ quality of life and support economic prosperity. If you’re an eligible entity seeking a partner to help get your loan or grant application over the finish line, or are looking for a partner versed in middle-mile broadband infrastructure and long-term network operations, contact NoaNet. With actionable plans crafted and ready for application, the more seamless it will be to take advantage of these readily available CERB funds. 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.