National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Alan Davidson revealed the agency is beefing up its staff to help states administer the billions in federal funding headed their way. The idea, he said, is to make sure the states have the resources they need to effectively distribute the funds and ensure the money goes toward achieving the government’s goal of serving high-speed broadband to every citizen.
In November, Congress allocated a total of $65 billion to fuel broadband deployments across the country. The NTIA has been tasked with dishing out more than $48 billion of that through a number of different programs, with the largest being the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) initiative.
Speaking at a Broadband Breakfast event, Davidson said “Our goal is that 100% goal…That is the mission we have been given, that when this program is done everyone in America will have access to high speed affordable broadband and that is defined in the statute as 100/20 [Mbps].”
Davidson noted meeting that goal will be a challenge, but said the agency expects to work closely and intensely with states to accomplish it. To that end, he said the NTIA is hiring.
“That’s probably been my biggest focus in the near term, has been the talent search we know we need to deliver on this,” he said. “One of the biggest places that we’re investing is in the folks who are going to be working with the states…We’re building out a pretty big team of folks who will be the one stop shop for states. Every state is going to have a person at NTIA who they know they can call.”
It unclear exactly how many employees NTIA is adding or what the timeline for hiring is. The agency currently has four job listings posted, including two for Broadband Program Specialists with a starting salary of $111,521. NTIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In order to receive their share of BEAD funding, each state must submit a broadband plan to the NTIA for approval. Davidson said ensuring every state does so is a priority. The agency has already started engaging with local officials, he added, noting representatives from 46 of the 50 states attended a recent meeting of state broadband leaders.
“Part of our challenge is going to be complexity. I do think the program that’s been put in place by Congress is complicated,” he explained. “The biggest challenge will probably be that state challenge. We know that some states are very far along, are very sophisticated about this, have invested a lot in their broadband offices. We know that other states are just beginning. And so that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges we have for sure and then helping them really with the technical assistance they need.”