Deadlines are quickly approaching for several programs that will provide broadband funding to states, tribal communities and U.S. territories. Once the deadlines pass, so does access to billions of dollars in funding. This article provides summaries of the programs, including what’s at stake, and key deadlines.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law Nov. 21, 2021. It includes $65 billion for programs designed to ensure Americans have high-speed broadband that’s both reliable and affordable. Deadlines for some programs are approaching, with letters of intent and proposals due this summer.

BEAD and DEA program deadlines approaching quickly

There are a number of Federal broadband programs. The following list focuses on the two with quickly approaching deadlines, the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, and the Digital Equity Act (DEA) program.

The Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program

BEAD provides funding over five years to expand internet with download speeds of least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) down and at least 20 Mbps up. These speeds are now considered critical to ensuring households and small businesses can perform simultaneous tasks that are speed intensive, such as a child participating in an online learning class while a parent works remotely.

A key difference between BEAD and previous federal broadband programs is how the funds are distributed. Previous federal programs typically distributed funds directly to internet service providers. BEAD is instead like a block-grant program. The funds are given to states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories (“eligible entities”). While funds must be distributed within federal program requirements, eligible entities have much greater say in how and where the funds go.

How much funding is available?

  • $100 million: Minimum amount for each eligible entity
  • $42.5 billion: Total funds included in the BEAD program

Eligible entities:

  • All 50 states
  • District of Columbia
  • U.S. territories of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Important deadlines:

  • May 13, 2022: Application opens
  • July 18, 2022: Deadline for eligible entities to submit a letter of intent (LOI). Information on submitting a LOI is External Linkavailable here.
  • Aug. 15, 2022: Application deadline for initial planning funds applications. A state, the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico may request up to $5 million in planning funds. U.S. territories may each request $1.25 million in planning funds. Recipients will have 270 days to develop a five-year action plan. Information on initial planning fund applications is External Linkavailable here.

If a state, the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory misses the July 18 deadline it is ineligible to participate in the BEAD program.

The Digital Equity Act (DEA) programs

External LinkDEA programs provide $2.75 billion to ensure all people and communities have the skills, technology and capacity needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy. The first two DEA programs, the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program and subsequent State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, are available to fund the development and implementation of five-year state, territorial and tribal digital equity initiatives. A wider range of organizations, including libraries and nonprofits, will be eligible later for the Digital Equity Competitive Program.

How much funding is available?

  • $60 million through the State Digital Equity Planning Grant program. Despite having the word “state” in the name, tribal communities and U.S. territories are also eligible.
  • $1.44 billion through the Digital Equity Capacity Grant program.
  • $1.25 billion to come later through the Digital Equity Competitive Grant program.

Entities eligible for State Digital Equity Planning and Capacity Grants:

  • All 50 states
  • District of Columbia
  • Indian Tribes, Alaska Native entities and Native Hawaiian organizations
  • U.S. territories of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Important deadlines:

  • July 12, 2022: Digital Equity Planning Grant applications due.
  • Sept. 29: National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) begins disbursing planning grants. Upon receiving planning funds, recipients will have 270 days to develop five-year digital equity plans.

Looking ahead—the important role of community stakeholders

Meeting these deadlines are the first of many tasks ahead. States, territories and tribal governments will need to quickly ramp up capacity for managing these and other new broadband programs. Support from community stakeholders will be critical to ensure plans are well informed and effective.

Additional information and resources

Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD)

Digital Equity Act (DEA)

Information on additional federal broadband and digital equity programs


Jeremy Hegle

Assistant Vice President and Community Affairs Officer (CAO)

Jeremy Hegle is assistant vice president and Community Affairs Officer (CAO). In this role, Hegle leads the Tenth District’s External LinkCommunity Development department with re…