NTIA and a 'Low-Cost Option' for Broadband Services

February 14, 2022

An excellent article has been posted related to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. BEAD will make $42 billion available to states to address the broadband needs of unserved and underserved populations. As part of this program there is a requirement for establishment of a low-cost option for consumers served by expanded networks. This option is mandated by language in the authorizing Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It will be the job of individual states to assure that this mandate is satisfied. 

See the analysis at:  

https://www.route-fifty.com/infrastructure/2022/02/looming-battle-over-how-set-low-cost-broadband-prices/361932/ 

A key question for NTIA and states is what level of subsidy will be required to assure access to these services for low-income households? Industry leaders are pushing for a one-size-fits-all subsidy, similar to the $30 per household subsidy offered under existing programs. Community advocates are urging more extensive subsidies, arguing that, for low-income households, a $10 per month subscription service would be affordable. Some advocates are recognizing the need for different subsidies in rural and urban communities: 

“Due to the extremely rural locations of some [households], as well as geographic isolation and deep poverty, significant subsidies will be required to support the access and affordability.” 

This approach recognizes that it is costlier to provide services in many rural and frontier areas, and that higher subsidies will be needed in these areas to keep service affordable.  

It will be important to monitor upcoming NTIA guidance of this program. If the NTIA does not provide specific definitions of affordability, the fight for affordable broadband services in rural areas will devolve to individual states. 

 

Date: February 14, 2022 

Tags: Broadband, NTIA, BEAD Program, Affordability