Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding is a transformative opportunity for broadband providers and the unserved Americans who stand to benefit. Here, guidance from the Vantage Point team on how to approach this unprecedented opportunity.
BEAD funding – the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program – is not a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for broadband providers. It’s a “once” opportunity, and the clock is already ticking. While policy makers and state offices finalize their plans in the coming months, for network operators, it’s time to take action with five key areas of preparation.
Where do you want to expand? Examine your existing territory, strategic plans, and eligibility maps to identify potential areas of application. Vantage Point recommends a “go big or go home” attitude: you can always slim down your vision, but it’s hard to expand your plans later.
What does your preliminary network layout look like? Greenfield fiber? An upgrade? Buried or aerial construction? If it’s aerial, is make-ready necessary? is it all contained in one state, or multiple? Answering these questions allows you to develop initial engineering designs, necessary to strategizing for BEAD applications.
These initial designs also allow for capital expenditure estimates and pre-planning construction hurdles. How much will it cost to build? How will inflation and prevailing wage requirements impact the cost? What services will be offered? Do you have additional building obligations to work around? Can you get a start on permitting or environmental headaches? You don’t have to wait for state guidelines to start wrestling with these issues.
With CapEx estimates in place, examining project-specific feasibility will help you prioritize different areas to optimize application scoring. Your feasibility should hold a 10-year view, accounting for end user revenues, which will clarify the lowest amount of funding needed. Again, this information is powerful when optimizing scoring strategies.
A Cybersecurity Risk Management Plan and a Supply Chain Risk Management Plan will both be required for BEAD. Putting them in place now gets them off your plate. Note they must both be operational or ready to be operational upon providing services. You’ll need to submit the plan to the State prior to the allocation of funds.
It takes time to build relationships and trust. Have these conversations before you “need” them: Ask local leaders about their needs; how a BEAD-funded network would impact them; what economic impact it could have. These can be city, county, or township governments; local stakeholders; anchor institutions; or simply influential community members.
BEAD is one component of a bigger discussion.
Let’s start that conversation here.