Don’t Let BEAD Slip Away

42 Billion.

That’s the amount of federal funding provided for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (“BEAD”) – and everybody wants a piece of the pie. This investment will impact nearly every aspect of the broadband space, providing more high-speed internet access than any previous federal effort. With a goal to get all Americans online by funding partnerships between states, communities, and stakeholders in order to build the necessary infrastructure, BEAD timelines are coming fast and furious. March 1st saw the deadline for broadband service providers to submit availability filings, and June 30th will see the announcement of state funding amounts.

The clock is ticking.

BEAD applicants shouldn’t twiddle their thumbs until then. States will receive a minimum of $100 million, with excess funds divided on a needs-based calculation. To up the ante, each carrier or ISP is required to provide matching funds of at least 25% of project costs after determining their federal funding allocation – and regulatory compliance is critical. BEAD requirements are complex and detailed, which means planning and preparation begin today.

BEAD prioritizes applicants that can demonstrate scalability, sustainability, climate risk resistance, and a focus on under-represented groups. Internet services must be reliable, low latency, and provide full coverage of at least 100/20 Mbps. Network outages must be less than 48 hours per year, and ISPs must offer at least one low-cost broadband option. Meeting these requirements is no small task, and early preparation ensures that applicants design a project that simultaneously aligns with federal broaband interests and fits their company’s expansion plans.

The exam is coming up, and procrastination gets you nowhere.

The next few months are critical to your company’s success in securing funding allocation. Beyond June, the states will be launching their grant application processes, so the time to prepare is now. JLA is uniquely positioned to support the entire lifecycle of broadband deployment in three distinct phases including Data Analysis, Plan Design, and Development Services.

JLA’s end-to-end advisory process differs from most consulting organizations in its granularity, expertise, and access to geospatial tools and platforms. These stages are sequenced to address the key questions that keep an ISP up at night, moving a BEAD applicant from current state to future state through detailed demand analysis, competitive analysis, and network design, among others.

  1. The Data Analysis stage outlines where an ISP is and where it’s seeking to go. JLA analyzes an organization’s data to create a detailed infrastructure expansion plan that addresses federal requirements. This stage includes Demand Profiling, Competitive Analysis, and State and Local Perspectives.
    • The first phase, Demand Profiling, identifies underserved counties, areas, and CAIs that fit the FCC’s speed guidelines, further narrowing these locations based on ongoing state broadband funding programs and the ISP’s existing expansion plans. JLA then conducts a detailed demographic analysis of these areas, adjusting for key factors that are most relevant to each state (e.g. income level, unemployment, or education level), filtering the highest priority locations, and finalizing a geographic area target list that aligns to an ISP’s strategic goals and priorities.
    • Competitive Analysis begins with identifying current service providers who may also target these planned expansion areas, creating a comprehensive competitor list for the target areas. JLA then refines this list by identifying the most likely competitors, drawing insights from their existing broadband applications along the way. JLA creates summarized profiles for these key competitors that detail ongoing fiber deployments and funding efforts in order to maximize an ISP’s chances of winning.
    • Finally, State and Local Perspectives looks to analyze broadband funding goals state-by-state, supplementing the more general NTIA guidelines to further refine target areas. This includes researching broadband availability goals and perspectives for each state, identifying available infrastructure that an ISP can leverage, and then reprioritizing the target areas from the Demand Profiling phase. The results from the Data Analysis stage serve as key inputs for the Plan Design stage.
  2. JLA’s Plan Design stage is built around operationalizing these expansion plans by identifying market demand clusters, finalizing network design, and calculating deployment costs. This stage includes Budgetary Network Design, Specific Route Network Design, and Business Case Development.
    • The Budgetary Network Design Process begins with determining potential capital budget ranges, working with the ISP to determine desired spend across all markets. These ranges then inform the market demand cluster analysis, resulting in a list of fiber expansion areas complete with calculations on trunk and branch costs and potential revenue for each cluster.
    • JLA then refines these clusters, prioritizing them based on demand-side analysis and capital cost, exploring possibilities for network design improvements such as taking advantage of daisy chain opportunities, and then recalculating revised costs. JLA finalizes the cluster prioritization for each capital budget tranche, providing geospatial network design maps as output along with a detailed data set of potential revenue and cost by cluster and build segment.
    • The Specific Route Network Design stage further modifies these estimates, layering in specific constraints based on local knowledge, network build preferences, and least cost routing algorithms along street paths, including the added costs of geographic obstacles such as railway crossings, bridges, and highway crossings. This stage finalizes the network design, building on the cluster visualizations from Budgetary Network Design.
    • Finally, Business Case Development produces a flexible model that explores various scenarios and key sensitivities to help inform final decisions on geographies to pursue and capital investment level. The demand-side analysis incorporates the ISPs market offer structure, take rates, and cluster economics. The supply-side analysis explores capital cost and contribution scenarios. These insights are then matched to create an overall P&L and cash flow analysis, with the ability to investigate multiple scenarios as the ISP’s expansion plans evolve.
    • Outputs from this phase will support an ISP’s subgrant application process to the State Broadband Offices.
  3. Finally, the Development Services stage is focused on establishing connections with each state’s broadband offices, local authorities, and other third parties.
    • JLA’s services include identifying and supporting meetings and calls with state broadband offices to align with the each state’s priorities, raising an ISP’s chances of winning funding. JLA also enages with local authorities to obtain the rights to leverage existing infrastructure, thereby helping acquire “matching funds” of 25% of Project Cost, lessening build costs.
    • JLA can also help solicit and secure these matching funds (cash and in-kind) from a variety of public and private sources. Finally, JLA offers support in the grant writing process and reporting and compliance activities to ensure all the boxes are checked.

After the successful award, JLA can provide future support in the execution phase through engineering design, operational planning, and program management. JLA’s team is scalable and flexible, with seasoned veterans who know the ins and outs of broadband deployment and funding initiatives. JLA helps win federal funding, define fiber expansion goals, and then make them a reality. Our telecom and networks expertise, cross-functional project management, and financial and geospatial tools empower ISPs to finish their homework on time and maximize their chances of success.

Everybody wants a piece of the pie. JLA can get you a bigger slice.

JLA Advisors is a boutique firm offering our clients a comprehensive end-to-end set of services, from strategy development, technology architecture design and execution, to software operational excellence, with an emphasis on innovation.

Sources

  1. US Department of Commerce NTIA: Internet for All FAQ and Answers 2.0
  2. US Department of Commerce NTIA: The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program
  3. JLA Advisors: Support for State Engagement Efforts
  4. JLA Advisors, Widelity, and T3: Gaining Ground: BEAD and The New Wave of Funding

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