The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as recently passed by Congress, appropriates over $65 billion to states, local governments, community organizations, and other entities for a range of digital inclusion activities. To help you better understand and navigate these funds, NDIA hosted a special webinar to break down different sources of funding included in the Infrastructure Act, who can access this funding, and what the funding can be used for.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act FAQ
As follows are a list of commonly asked questions about the broadband and digital inclusion provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021. The answers are provided by the NDIA team and are written with the information we have as of December 8, 2021. Please note, that the answers could change depending upon the forthcoming rules processes the federal agencies that will manage these funds will develop in the next several months. Check back for more information as we will add to this list as we receive more questions and as we learn new information to inform the answers.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Q: What is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act?
A: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a federal law, passed on November 15th, 2021, that authorizes $1.2 trillion in federal spending for infrastructure efforts in the United States—including $65 for digital inclusion efforts.
Q: How much money will my state get?
A: All states will receive a minimum of $100 million as part of the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD). The remaining BEAD dollars are allocated based on formulas detailed in the IIJA. States will also receive money from the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program based on formulas detailed in the IIJA. Notably, states must apply for both of these programs in order to receive funds.
Q: How much money will my community based organization get?
A: States can subgrant dollars from the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program to community based organizations. Community based organizations can also apply directly to NTIA for funding from the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. However, community based organizations cannot be direct or indirect recipients of BEAD dollars.
Digital Equity Act (DEA)
Q: What is the Digital Equity Act?
A: The Digital Equity Act (DEA) establishes two grant programs for digital inclusion activities. First, the DEA makes $60 million available to states in planning grants, for the purpose of developing a State Digital Equity Plan. The DEA establishes a State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, which will award $1.44 billion to states for the purpose of implementing their plan. The DEA also establishes a Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, which makes available $1.25 billion in grant awards (not through states) for digital inclusion activities.
Q: How long will states have to implement their State Digital Equity Plans under the Digital Equity Act?
A: The specific length of the grants will be outlined in the NOFO. The IIJA authorizes funds to be appropriated for a 5-year fiscal period beginning in FY 2022.
Q: Is the Digital Equity Act the only one of these three programs that can provide funding for digital literacy skills and digital navigator programs?
A: No. Money from the BEAD grant program can be used for “broadband adoption, including programs to provide affordable internet-capable devices.”
Q: Q: My organization is a national organization and works nationwide to close the digital divide. What funding is my organization eligible for?
Q: Should national organizations apply solely to their own state for national digital inclusion work? Is all work limited to state implementation?
A: Depending on the rules promulgated in the NOFO, your organization will likely be eligible to apply for the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program.
Q: Is there a toolkit to help states prepare and apply for digital inclusion funding in the Digital Equity Act?
A: NDIA is working on a toolkit for this purpose.
Q: Are school’s eligible to receive grants from the Competitive Grant Program?
Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program
Q: What is the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program?
A: The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) is a grant program that makes $42.45 billion available to states for broadband infrastructure deployment and other digital inclusion activities such as device programs and broadband adoption.
Q: What is a NOFO?
A: A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is a document that describes a funding opportunity of a project/program, the funds available to be dispersed under that project/program, the entities that are eligible to apply for such funds, the activities that such funds can be used for, etc. A federal entity will release a NOFO for each of the grant programs outlined above. The NOFO will outline these grant programs in greater detail than the way they are described in the IIJA/
Q: What sorts of reporting/financial requirements will Community Based Organizations grant recipients be required to meet as part of the IIJA’s digital inclusion grant programs? Or will that depend on the state?
A: We will not know this until NTIA releases the NOFOs for such programs.
Q: Should the BEAD and DEA planning processes be conducted separately or in conjunction with one another?
A: NDIA is encouraging NTIA to sync up the planning processes for BEAD and DEA. Ideally, the planning processes for each will be conducted in sync.
Q: Can BEAD funding be used for internet subsidies to complement the ACP subsidy?
A: Yes. An eligible use of BEAD funding includes broadband adoption. Though, the exact meaning of this will remain unclear until the NOFO is released.
Q: How do the priority levels outlined in BEAD overlap with non deployment uses, like providing devices?
A: The priority levels only apply to deployment projects.
Transition from Emergency Broadband Benefit to Affordable Connectivity Program
Q: What is the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program?
A: The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program is a federal program that provides households with a discount on internet service and an eligible device. The EBB was amended and further funded in the IIJA, as well as renamed as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Beginning on January 1, 2022, the FCC’s broadband affordability program will be called the ACP.
Q: What exactly will the transition from EBB to ACP look like?
A: As of December 7, 2021, we do not know in extreme detail. The FCC seeks comments on the specifics of this transition, which are due December 8, 2021. The FCC will create rules that specify the details of the transition.
Q: What happens to the people who are enrolled in the EBB at $50 before December 31, 2021?
A: They will continue to receive $50 for a 2 month transition period—after which, their benefit will reduce to $30.
Q: Will community based organizations receive funding to conduct local outreach efforts regarding enrollment in ACP?
A: Maybe. The FCC will decide whether it wants to stand up a grant program for this purpose. Congress gave them the authority to do so.
Q: When can people sign up for ACP?
A: ACP is anticipated to start on Jan 1, 2022. The FCC has not promulgated rules regarding the program yet. Presumably, people will be able to sign up for ACP through the FCC or USAC website.
Q: Does ACP include a device benefit?
A: We expect the FCC will continue the $100 device benefit in ACP.
Q: Does affordability factor into the definitions of unserved and underserved for the new FCC maps?
A: No. Affordability does not factor into the definitions of unserved and underserved for the new FCC maps.
Q: Where can I find out more about the FCC maps and other maps that will influence the IIJA funds and programs?
A: You can access FCC broadband maps at https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/. You can also access NTIA’s National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) at https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/data-and-mapping. The Community Broadband Bits Podcast also discusses broadband mapping and the current implications on the IIJA in this episode https://muninetworks.org/content/what-states-communities-and-activists-need-do-make-most-infrastructure-act-episode-484.
Q: I don’t have grant writing experience, where can I get help once the grants are available?
A: Regional councils of government can often provide support to their members in applying for grants. In addition, many larger scale public libraries have grants librarians and workshops within their workforce development departments. Also, partnering with a larger organization or institution like housing authorities can free up some resources for grant writing
Q: How do I find other digital inclusion programs and organizations in my state?
A: You can use NDIA’s affiliate database and map (https://www.digitalinclusion.org/affiliates/) to identify other NDIA affiliates in your state.
Q: Will an eligible household with previous unpaid balances with a participating provider be able to apply the ACP benefit to a service offering of that provider?
A: Providers cannot decline to enroll a household based on any past or present debts with a broadband provider. The IIJA does not disturb this requirement. However, the IIJA permits a participating provider to terminate a subscriber’s access to broadband internet access service supported by the Affordable Connectivity Program after 90 days of non-payment. The FCC requests comments on how it should reconcile these provisions.