The state of Louisiana secured what appeared to be the first grant from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, scoring a $2 million planning award.
Created as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), BEAD is set to provide each state an initial allocation of $100 million to expand high-speed internet coverage, with additional funding distributed proportionally based on coverage maps due to be released by the Federal Communications Commission. The program also allows for each state to receive up to $5 million in funding for planning efforts, which include broadband coverage mapping, the creation or expansion of state broadband offices and community outreach efforts. States which receive planning grants have 270 days to submit a five-year action plan.
As of July, all 50 states had declared their intent to participate in the BEAD program, meaning all are eligible to receive planning grants. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is distributing the BEAD funds, said grants will continue to be made on a rolling basis.
“Over the coming weeks, every state and territory will have funding in hand as they begin to build grant-making capacity, assess their unique needs, and engage with diverse stakeholders to make sure that no one is left behind,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement. The NTIA is part of the Department of Commerce.
In addition to its $2 million planning grant, Louisiana also received $941,542.28 in Digital Equity Act funding to create a statewide digital equity plan, hire a digital equity or inclusion specialist and facilitate engagement with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
Louisiana has been on a roll in terms of broadband funding recently. In June, it secured $176.7 million from the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund to cover 88,500 locations across the state. A month later, the state divvied up $129.5 million amongst Star Communications, AT&T, Altice USA, Charter Communications, Comcast and others through its GUMBO grant program. Governor John Bel Edwards noted in a press release the GUMBO grants used American Rescue Plan Act funding, but it was not immediately clear if that referred to State and Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars or money from the Capital Projects Fund.