How the
Northwest Connects

Funding the Road to Broadband: WA Public Works Board

Continuing our “Funding the Road to Broadband” series, we’re exploring the many opportunities that have recently resulted from state and federal legislation. Here in Washington State, we turn our attention to the freshly-approved, 2021-2023 Capital Budget (SHB 1080). Among the many capital projects to be funded in the next two fiscal years are $60 million in appropriated loan and grant programs administered by the Department of Commerce’s Public Works Board (PWB) expressly for broadband infrastructure.

Funding is available from two silos: $14 million of the statewide broadband account is reserved solely for loans and administrative expenses related to implementation of the broadband program; another $46 million from the coronavirus capital projects account (federal appropriations) is provided solely for grants and administrative expenses related to implementation of the broadband program. The appropriations must be used for projects that use a technology-neutral approach in order to expand access at the lowest cost to the most unserved or underserved Washington State residents. The fiscal period for this biennial funding begins July 1, 2021 and ends June 30, 2023.

Per the PWB broadband funding section of its website, eligible applicants include:

Public Entities:

  • Cities and Towns
  • Counties
  • Public Port Districts
  • Public Utility Districts
  • Other Special Purpose Districts
  • Quasi-Municipal Corporations
  • Tribes
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Cooperative Associations

Private Entities*:

  • Limited liability corporations organized for the purpose of expanding broadband access
  • Incorporated businesses or partnerships

*To ensure that a grant or loan to a private entity primarily serves the public interest and benefits the public, there must be a guarantee that the asset or infrastructure to be developed will be maintained for public use for a period of at least 15 years.

Per the PWB website, funding is limited to $2 million per project loan/grant award limit with a 50% match, or projects in financially distressed areas and Indian country may receive up to 90% of the total project cost for a total not to exceed $5 million. Application scoring criteria for broadband infrastructure funding can be found on the PWB website. Check back on the site to apply for 2021-2023 funding broadband infrastructure grants and loans in the coming weeks, or contact a project manager from the website.

This $60 million soon available through the PWB alone represents an exceptional amount of funding, and the time is NOW for communities 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. States, municipalities, community organizations, Tribal governments and others must have actionable plans crafted and ready for application if they intend to take advantage of these soon-available, quality-of-life-changing 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.