PBDE Issues Comment on BEAD Challenge Process and CAI Affordability

Today, Pacific Broadband and Digital Equity formally submitted a Comment regarding the National Telecommunications and Information Agency’s (NTIA) BEAD Challenge Process Guideline, in a response to a request for comments by NTIA. The BEAD Challenge Process is NTIA’s designed approach to the competition stages for sub-grantees to distribute the majority of the funds from the $42.45 Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program authorized by Congress in 2021.

In the Comment, Pacific Broadband and Digital Equity puts the focus on gigabit broadband access for community anchor institutions (CAIs): organizations like schools, libraries, colleges, youth centers, community centers, and more. These CAIs are critical to many communities of the Pacific region, and stand to benefit immensely from the improved internet service potentially offered through BEAD. However, provisions in the original statute (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) are ambiguous regarding which of these CAIs will be eligible to participate in the program.

In the Comment, Pacific Broadband and Digital Equity argues that institutions that cannot afford the high cost of gigabit service should be qualified for receiving assistance from BEAD programs. We point out that–in the region–many small institutions are faced with enormous charges for even basic internet service. We note that since these conditions vary from place to place, the definition of what qualifies as affordable access for institutions should be set by the local governments. Finally, we suggest how this approach might be implemented into the BEAD workflow for sub-grantees. It is our hope that the NTIA will agree that these changes are both in keeping with the spirit of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and best for the communities of the Pacific region and across America.

The text of the Comment can be accessed here. (PDF)