The crucial role of collaboration between service providers and states in the distribution of federal broadband funding was a topic of discussion at the 2023 ACA Connects Summit. In the above interview, Greg Bathrick, AVP of Broadband Commercial Development, built on this theme stressing the need for broadband service providers (BSPs) to engage with local and state broadband offices to ensure the equitable and efficient allocation of BEAD funding.
The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is a $42.5 billion federal program that provides funding to states for broadband infrastructure. The states, through the work of their broadband offices, are responsible for distributing the funding to eligible projects. Bathrick emphasizes that timelines are tight and that the state broadband offices, which tend to be relatively new, are still getting up to speed.`
This is an opportunity for the BSP to educate these nascent agencies about the challenges of providing broadband. This starts with active participation in state broadband planning meetings and regular engagement. It means providing corrections to the broadband maps to ensure they are accurate. This is also an opportunity to explain the challenges of building and maintaining the network, whether those challenges are a trained labor force or an adequate supply chain.
Private Equity Adds to the Public Funding Options
Bathrick, who is responsible for the Calix Broadband Funding Program, brings years of experience to the topic. He and his team have helped 400+ smaller rural operators with their funding strategies. He categorizes the rural opportunities:
- Unserved (<25 Mbps)
- Underserved (<100 Mbps)
- Must be served (fiber-poor areas).
To this last category, Bathrick states “If a community is not served with fiber, that’s an opportunity for you.” The implication is that the operational efficiencies and extensibility of a fiber-to-the-premise network is a strategic advantage compared to legacy coaxial and copper-based last-mile networks.
Bathrick explains that this is a factor in the flow of private equity to help rural operators build out smaller markets.
With the federal funding starting to seriously open in 2024, Bathrick suggests that the once-in-a-generation investment in broadband will be an ongoing conversation for the next three to four years.