NTIA BEAD Process Will Work If Focused on the Unserved, Tech-Neutrality, Accurate Maps, and Program Transparency

The following statement may be attributed to Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for WISPA:

Washington, DC, February 4, 2022 – WISPA appreciates the opportunity to comment on the NTIA’s implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s (IIJA) Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.  The IIJA’s $65 billion in broadband deployment, affordability and digital equity support is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bridge, once and for all, the digital divide.  NTIA’s BEAD program would allocate $42.45 billion for broadband deployment.  The ultimate details of the program will be multifaceted and will need to balance many competing interests, but we believe the NTIA will best serve the IIJA’s goal in the BEAD program by focusing on truly unserved areas, promoting a diverse palette of tech-neutral solutions, employing accurate mapping, and ensuring robust program transparency.
In the IIJA, Congress wisely required states and territories to expend BEAD program grant funds to serve unserved locations first, with any remainder to fund underserved locations, and anchor institutions, in that order.  This will help achieve the longstanding policy goal of making broadband service available to all Americans and represents the best use of limited taxpayer funds by focusing direct support where it is most needed.   

To accomplish that, Congress chose a tech-neutral approach to get every American online in good and in challenging times.  We believe that giving a fair opportunity to many different broadband deployment solutions is the best way to bridge the digital divide and keep all Americans safe and prosperous.  Our members’ success in working in that space depends on such flexibility.  And that approach has borne out elsewhere throughout history in our economy: Where inclusive systems promote the development and deployment of more solutions, better results always prevail.

Further guiding that, Congress instructed the program to employ accurate FCC mapping so that states can granularly target funding to truly unserved areas and prevent wasteful use of limited tax dollars, which may find their way into pernicious overbuilding of networks that already serve Americans well.   

Finally, though BEAD must come into order and produce results quickly, for this program to work most effectively it must be underpinned by transparency in the application process, challenge process, selection criteria and ongoing program compliance milestones.  The opportunity we have here is simply too great for it to be undermined by lax processes which the NTIA can control from the BEAD program’s very inception.
Our community-based providers – who serve over 7 million Americans in the hardest to reach areas of the country – are excited to work with the NTIA and the states to realize the promise of the IIJA and BEAD.  We stand ready to make this unprecedented program a success for the American people.

WISPA's NTIA BEAD Comments with Technical Appendix can be seen here.

WISPA’s 1000 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the evolving industry that supports fixed broadband connectivity, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members provide evolutionary broadband access to millions of residential and business customers in rural, urban and Tribal areas across America.
Mike Wendy