Texas Broadband Update: The Broadband, Equity Access, and Deployment Program

by Jack Klug

The Broadband, Equity Access, and Development (“BEAD”) Program was created as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and is a $42.5 billion federal grant program which aims to expand high-speed Internet access through the development of broadband infrastructure, broadband action plans, and other programs to promote user adoption of new networks. Texas was the largest BEAD award recipient, as it will receive $3.31 billion under the program.

The Texas Broadband Development Office (“BDO”) will oversee the allocation of this $3.31 billion and has created a competitive process (the “Challenge Process”) for potential subgrantees to apply for funding. Eligible subgrantees include local governments, nonprofits, and Internet service providers (“ISPs”). BDO will prioritize unserved locations that have no Internet access or have access under 25/3 Mbps and underserved locations that only have access under 100/20 Mbps.

As part of the Challenge Process, BDO will release the Texas Broadband Development Map which will show broadband availability data within the state. This map will largely be based off the FCC National Broadband Map and is meant to identify eligible areas for funding. The Challenge Process will begin once the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) approves Texas’ Initial Proposal, which outlines the steps that BDO will take to pursue universal service. Through the Challenge Process, eligible subgrantees can challenge certain determinations made by BDO, including those relating to availability, speed, and technology. Eligible subgrantees will only have 14 days to submit their challenges once Challenge Process starts, and a Tier E license is necessary for any grantee to submit a challenge. BDO forecasts that the Challenge Process will start in April.

After the Challenge Process is completed, results will be submitted to NTIA. Thereafter, the subgrantee process will begin, wherein the eligible subgrantees will apply for BEAD awards. The Initial Proposal outlines both the Challenge Process and subgrantee process. To access a Tier E license, use the following link: NTIA Tier E License Request (costquest.com). It is encouraged that local governments apply for this license as soon as possible so that they are prepared and able to participate in the Challenge Process.

Jack Klug is an Associate in the Firm’s Energy and Utility Practice Group. If you would like additional information or have questions related to this article or other matters, please contact Jack at 512.322.5837 or jklug@lglawfirm.com.

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