On February 3, 2022, TLP submitted Comments in response to NTIA’s Request for Comment on the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“BIL”). The Comments draw upon the Firm’s extensive knowledge in telecommunications law and experience assisting clients with various broadband grant programs and provide recommendations for the most effective implementation of the BIL Act. TLP proposed three main steps that NTIA should take to meet the BIL’s goals of closing the digital divide and promoting universal, reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband services:
- NITA should draw upon prior successful broadband grant application programs and procedures to establish a comprehensive set of model program procedures and service parameters that states are encouraged to follow. Such model programs would ensure that qualified applicants are able to seek funding in more than one state and that NTIA is more easily able to monitor and oversee program compliance.
- NTIA should insist that states have adequate planning in place to manage the funds they receive. In particular, NTIA should ensure that 1) states implement a transparent grant and sub-grant process that seeks input from interested parties; 2) these state plans are authorized by law; 3) the agencies implementing the programs are adequately funded; and 4) states have the resources to monitor compliance over time.
- NTIA should ensure that states use a sound methodology and best available data to assure that funds are allocated to areas of bona fide need.
In addition, TLP offered several other recommendations, including that NTIA should adopt service standards that are technologically neutral, take steps to ensure a diverse variety of provider types are included as grant recipients, only implement waivers of the matching fund requirement in cases where an applicant has demonstrated it is appropriate, and should encourage Buy American plans.
The funding provided through the BIL will substantially help close the digital divide and expand broadband access to all Americans. TLP will be closely monitoring the program and is prepared to assist interested parties in obtaining funding.
For more information or assistance with broadband funding matters, please contact us.