Overview of Municipal Broadband Funding

Over the last decade, and more recently during the pandemic between 2020-2022, federal acts and bills have passed allowing communities to receive greater access to municipal broadband. These bills recognize municipal broadband as an essential service improving and supporting quality of life, economic development, healthcare, education, and other important aspects of communities. As the acts and bills vow to make it easier for communities to improve themselves in these manners, they seek to lift restrictive legislation on municipal broadband access and provide funding for local broadband infrastructure and broadband services.

When local governments set up wireless municipal broadband services, areas can receive faster speeds, controlled rates, and greater service coverage. In effect, more individuals and entities receive the services they need to compete with larger, thriving communities. If you are a municipality that fits this narrative, you may consider applying for a municipal broadband grant. In this article, we will identify the most relevant, available funds and discuss the efficient steps for applying and receiving funding.

Municipal Broadband Funding Programs

If you have determined that you are an unserved or underserved community, you may be curious about the funding opportunities available to you. A few of the current and upcoming relevant opportunities include:

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: This bill allocates $350 billion in funding towards state, local and tribal governments. At the beginning of 2022, this act introduced flexible options to use the funding for broadband infrastructure development.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD): Following the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, this program places $42.45 billion into the hands of states and territories to designate to unserved and underserved communities.

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program: A $980 million program that targets tribal governments and communities to build municipal broadband on tribal lands.

Broadband Infrastructure Program: A $288 million program that supports partnerships between local governments and service providers in unserved communities, especially rural areas.

Community Connect Grants Program: A financial assistance program that provides grants to communities, non-profit organizations, and tribes for broadband service-oriented towards economic growth, education, health care, or public safety.

Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program: A grant that offers funds for construction, purchase, or improvement of broadband service infrastructure in rural areas.

High-Cost Program: A program that gives funding to telecom carriers so they can build infrastructure and provide broadband services in expensive or hard-to-reach areas.

Applying for Funding Programs or Grants

For internet service providers applying for a grant for wireless municipal broadband, you will need to follow the application requirements very closely. It is important to note that each program or grant, even if administered by the same government body or organization, will have different eligibility criteria and application requirements.

Apart from filling out required forms, you may expect to provide eligibility documents, proof that this is an unserved or underserved community, a detailed action plan indicating which communities will be served and how you intend to accomplish that, a network diagram, a budget, a record of current assets and funding, a financial forecast or estimate, an environmental impact report, an economic impact report, and other documents.

Further, there may be multiple assessment processes to ensure the prioritization and selection of unserved and underserved communities for strong, accessible, and affordable broadband services. You may go through a screening process to determine eligibility, a technical evaluation to assess the feasibility of your complete plan, and a comparative step to indicate priority. In this way, programs are able to ascertain if your municipality qualifies for the wireless municipal broadband funding at the current time.

Partnering with a Provider

For municipalities: When you develop your plan to set up a wireless municipal broadband network, you need to create an RFP. This is an official document describing your project and asking for providers to submit their best strategies for implementing a broadband network, how their materials and products will accomplish your objective, and their bid.
The RFP must provide the scope of services including clear goals for coverage (for instance, you would like to provide 100% of the unserved neighborhoods in town with wireless municipal broadband) and reasonable priorities (for example, you may wish to have the fastest broadband network or you may prefer to have the lowest costs). You should also detail your requirements for the provider, the submission deadline for the RFPs, the evaluation procedure or the conditions under which the strategy will be accepted.

For providers: If you are a provider, your RFP response is crucial in securing a contract. It must follow the requirements set forth by the municipality or entity. That said, a differentiated RFP response that sets you apart from the competition is advantageous, as often municipalities will receive a large number of proposals in a quick time frame. You can accomplish this by designing creative solutions to the proposed effect and showcasing your expertise.

Just as the RFP focuses upon the municipality’s goals, you should focus on residents’ current situation and future goals. For instance, if they wish to provide 100% of the unserved neighborhoods in town with wireless municipal broadband, you can detail exactly how you would accomplish that strategy and what makes your project strategy the most efficient for achieving that goal. You would also explain the timeline for that plan. If you have accomplished similar projects, you can provide concrete results to the client. For instance, you may share the previous clients’ objectives, how you reached those goals or how you achieved positive results or furthered aspects of the community with your implementations.

Airwaive Can Help

Airwaive is committed to helping municipalities and providers launch wireless broadband networks easily and affordably to unserved or underserved communities. By providing the network planning tools and available sites to host wireless equipment, we reduce overall infrastructure costs and facilitate greater area coverage. Find out more by scheduling a demo below or checking out our latest resources such as A Checklist For Municipal Broadband Approvals and Municipal Broadband RFP Tips.

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