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NTIA’s commitment to state and territory local coordination

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) understands that closing the digital divide requires ongoing, meaningful engagement with the communities the Internet for All (IFA) programs are serving. NTIA views strong involvement from state, local, territorial, and Tribal communities as key to ensuring that the broadband needs of all unserved and underserved locations and underrepresented communities are met. Local coordination promotes alignment of priorities among states and territories, regional, and local governments as well as community organizations and other broadband stakeholders. Local coordination is an important part of both the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity (DE) programs.

Between August 2022 and November 2023, NTIA co-hosted day-long workshops with 17 different state and territory broadband offices (SBOs). These workshops brought together local area stakeholders and provided an important opportunity to open lines of communication between NTIA and the SBOs needed to make the BEAD and DE programs community-driven successes. The workshops also enabled broadband offices to create avenues for new and existing relationships with their stakeholders as they prepare for future phases of these programs and ensure that these stakeholders were included in the planning process.

Stakeholder engagement is important during all aspects of the BEAD and DE program lifecycle, especially at certain critical milestones. For example, a state or territory’s Challenge Process allows local governments, nonprofit organizations, or broadband service providers to “challenge” a specific location’s eligibility for BEAD funding. The Challenge Process requires local input to ensure a true understanding of the broadband landscape – as experienced on a location-by-location level. For more information on active BEAD challenge processes, see NTIA’s State and Territory Challenge Process Tracker.

NTIA continues to provide ongoing support for state and territory stakeholders through:

  • Regular technical assistance and programmatic webinars; and
  • Regularly scheduled cohort meetings (e.g., the State Broadband Leaders Network, Tribal Broadband Leaders Network, and Digital Equity Leaders Network).

The BEAD and DE programs require that states and territories rely on stakeholder input and coordination with them so that local needs are factored into their individual plans. Additional support from NTIA can help state and territory broadband offices carry out the critical work of ensuring stakeholders have a continuous voice in the implementation of plans and proposals. Collaboration with Tribal and local governments, community groups, industry, union and labor organizations, and underrepresented populations (among others) will build the strong relationships necessary for success in bringing affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access to everyone in America.

CT Bureau

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