“BEAD” and Bridging the Digital Divide
The Importance for States To Get the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program Right
May 25, 2023DownloadsDownload Brochure
FTI Consulting is well-positioned to assist States in their BEAD planning. Some of the core areas where States require expertise include Broadband Availability Mapping & Validation, Cost Modeling, Subgrant Award Process Designing and Compliance Process Development.
What is BEAD?
The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (“BEAD”) is a $42.45 billion formula-based state grant program for deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved communities, with each state set to receive, at a minimum, $100 million, with incremental funding to be formulaically allocated.
The BEAD program has the potential to be transformational for states in closing the remaining connectivity gaps. The program is structured so that each state will be in control and will play a key role in shaping its own broadband access for generations. A state’s BEAD planning should begin with an understanding of the key lessons learned in prior grant programs, e.g., RDOF, etc. Careful consideration and planning will be required by state broadband offices and should be tailored to the specific conditions, geographies, demographics and goals of each state.
Why Broadband Access Is Important
Bridging the digital divide and expanding broadband access to rural areas is a critical need in the United States. It is not just a matter of convenience, but a matter of equity and ensuring that all Americans have access to the resources they need to thrive. Expanding broadband access to rural areas is critical for ensuring that all Americans have access to educational opportunities, healthcare services, social connections, and economic development. It is imperative that we invest in these initiatives to ensure that no one is left behind in the digital age. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 79 percent of households with school-age children in rural areas have internet access, compared to 94 percent of households in other areas. This lack of access to reliable internet can put rural students at a disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts, hindering their educational opportunities and limiting their prospects. Access to broadband internet is also essential for economic development, particularly in rural areas where traditional industries such as agriculture and manufacturing are in decline or are at risk of getting boxed out by a lack of competitive advantage and where internet-connected devices and sensors are becoming critical to maximizing yields. A study by the Brookings Institution found that expanding broadband access in rural areas could create up to 360,000 new jobs and add $47 billion to the U.S. economy each year.