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Louisiana becomes the first state authorized to request access to BEAD funds

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has approved Louisiana’s Initial Proposal for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative. Louisiana is the first state to reach this important milestone, which will enable the state to move from the planning phase to the implementation phase for the BEAD program—a major step towards closing the digital divide in Louisiana and meeting the President’s goal of connecting everyone in America with affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

“President Biden has been clear that everyone in America needs access to quality, affordable high-speed internet so that they can fully participate in our modern economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Today, Louisiana is taking a major step toward ensuring that no one in the state is held back by a lack of Internet access. I congratulate Governor Edwards and the team at ConnectLA on this terrific achievement for Louisiana’s workers, businesses, communities, and families.”

The BEAD program is a $42.45 billion state grant program authorized by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. States and territories will use the funding to deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service. Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used on high-speed Internet adoption, training, and workforce development efforts, among other eligible uses.

“The Internet is the essential tool for communication in today’s world. Today, Louisiana is one step closer to delivering affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to all,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “I salute the ConnectLA team for developing a sophisticated and high-quality plan focused on creating jobs and building resilient networks that will serve the state for years to come.”

BEAD-eligible entities—the 56 states, territories, and the District of Columbia—are required to submit for NTIA’s approval an Initial Proposal detailing how they plan to spend their BEAD allocation to deliver high-speed Internet access to all unserved and underserved locations within their borders. All states must submit Initial Proposals by December 27, 2023.

“Under President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we’ve made a historic $90 billion investment to deliver affordable, reliable high-speed Internet to everyone in America,” said Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. “Today’s announcement, which marks an incredible milestone for my home state of Louisiana, shows that we are making real progress towards closing the digital divide and connecting all Louisianans with high-speed Internet. Whether we’re talking about Internet access, clean water, or clean energy, President Biden is delivering for my home state like never before.”

“Thanks to the BEAD program, states like Louisiana will now have the tools to ensure that every household and small business in America has access to affordable high-speed Internet – delivering on the President’s commitment to lower costs. I congratulate NTIA and Governor Bel Edwards for this critical milestone,” said National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard.

BEAD-eligible entities may choose to submit the Initial Proposal in two volumes. Volume I outlines the state or territory’s proposal for how it will run its challenge process, through which a unit of local government, nonprofit organization, or broadband service provider can challenge whether a location should be eligible for BEAD grant funding.

“I want to thank the Biden Harris administration for ushering in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that made this possible along with Senator Bill Cassidy and Congressman Troy Carter,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the sense of urgency that my administration has worked to ensure that high speed internet is not only accessible but reliable for every single Louisianan. Our plan stresses resilience, connectivity and affordability, and we will implement it as submitted with shovel ready projects set to begin next year. Not only that, but our partnership with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System will make certain we develop a very strong, skilled and credentialed workforce for the infrastructure jobs that are to come.”

Louisiana expects to conclude its BEAD challenge process in December. One year from Initial Proposal approval, Louisiana must submit a Final Proposal that details, among other things, the outcome of the subgrantee selection process and how the state will ensure service to all unserved and underserved locations.

“This is a is a monumental achievement that emphasizes Louisiana’s commitment to equity in internet usage. Being the first state authorized to request access to BEAD funds, we are leading the way in closing the digital divide, ensuring that every citizen has affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband access,” said Rep. Troy Carter. “By prioritizing the internet as an essential tool for communication, Louisiana sets an example for other states in utilizing BEAD funds to bridge technological disparities, creating a more inclusive and connected society.”

CT Bureau

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