March 7, 2024

NTIA Administrator Calls 2024 ‘Year of Execution’ for BEAD

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson called 2024 the Year of Execution for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Davidson made his remarks at the ACA Connects #Summit2024 during a fireside with Jeff Ross, ACA Connects Board Member and President of Armstrong, and Tom Cohen, Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.

“It feels like a historic moment for NTIA and our country,” Davidson told attendees. “We’ve been talking about the digital divide for 25 years. Now we finally have the resources to get serious about it. You don’t get those chances very often,” he added.

All 50 states, D.C. and territories have submitted plans to connect everyone, both unserved and underserved, with broadband, and 19 of those plans are over a billion dollars, Davidson reported. “2024 is the year of execution. States are going to be starting their grant making.”

Even with BEAD’s ambitious mission, Davidson expects the $42.5 billon, when combined with other federal monies for broadband, will be sufficient to connect everyone. He anticipates that most of the funds will go to fiber-based projects.

“We have a preference for fiber because Congress directed us to ensure we are building networks that are going to last for years to come,” Davidson explained. “Congress is not going to give us billions again. We can’t go back to them and say we need to upgrade.”

Davidson acknowledged there are challenges in deploying high-speed Internet infrastructure.

“Let us know where the friction points are. That invitation is open,” he added. “We want to make this a program that works for everyone.

Davidson noted that after stakeholder feedback, NTIA updated its policy around the letter of credit requirement and asked that ACA members continue to speak up in other challenging areas like permitting.

“We are working to streamline the permitting process and have a tiger team in place to propose solutions,” he explained. NTIA also now has a federal program officer to answer questions in every state. “We want to hear from all of you about areas of concern,” he added.

When asked what advice he would give to ACA Connects member companies, Davidson said, “Please show up in the grant-making processes that are coming. We need you. We are only going to meet this mission if everybody is at the table.”

“This is a really historic moment. Generations before us did really big things. They connected everybody with electricity and water and built the interstate highway system. This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment — our chance to make sure that we are building and connecting everyone in America with what they need to thrive in the digital economy,” said Davidson.

About ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association –America’s Communications Association – ACA Connects is a trade organization representing more than 500 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, video, and phone services covering 31.9 million households, 7.3 million of which are located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. ACA Connects Members operate in every state, providing advanced communications to connect homes, companies, main street, schools, hospitals and more. America’s economic prosperity in smaller communities and rural areas depends on the growth and success of ACA Connects Members, who believe a connected nation is a prosperous nation.

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