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BEAD Grant Program Aims to Bridge Digital Divide

The 2020 global pandemic highlighted the importance of high-speed, reliable internet services for all, especially those in rural and/or underserved communities. Without reliable, fast internet services to bridge this digital divide, healthcare, education, business, and even online hobbies can become significantly more difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Nearly everything today has an online aspect to it, and some industries/activities are moving to online-only. No matter how you look at it, our world continues to move further online rapidly.


Person using a laptop computer
BEAD Grant Program Aims to Bridge Digital Divide, Ultimately Achieve Digital Equity

The more connected everything becomes, any issues in connectivity become more pronounced. However, it’s not simply about convenience. Missing out on reliable and accessible internet services can seriously limit one’s chances of improving one's career path or seeking out educational opportunities.  Also, most jobs now require at least some technological/computer skills, regardless of the field, which is something you can’t practice without internet services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released its findings[1] about the digital inequity experienced by Americans in a 2022 study. They found that “Fixed terrestrial broadband service (excluding satellite) has not been physically deployed to approximately 24 million Americans, including almost 28% of Americans in rural areas, and more than 23% of people living on Tribal lands” (FCC Media Relations, 2024). People in these underserved areas are at risk of being left behind in this online-centric era of society. Getting their internet services up to national standards is critical, and the Broadband Equity and Deployment (BEAD) Program can help bridge this digital divide and help us reach the ultimate goal of digital equity!


BEAD[2] is a grant program overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that has so far allocated $42 billion in federal funding to individual states and US territories to expand high-speed internet access to rural and other underserved communities.


The FCC created a BEAD Map in 2021 outlining which areas in the U.S. and its territories are considered underserved. This map served as the starting point for determining which states needed the most funding. Now, Telecompetitor maintains an updated map[3] of how much broadband funding is going toward each state. While the rollout of the BEAD Program has sparked many questions, often revolving around various state-specific requirements, the NTIA continues to release guidance and support to smooth over these issues. You’re bound to run into unforeseen issues when dealing with a project of such a massive scale, so maintaining open communication between state governments and the federal entities in charge is critical.



Visual representation of an internet network in a city
BEAD Grant Program Aims to Bridge Digital Divide, Ultimately Achieve Digital Equity

This year, BEAD-funded programs in many states are being approved in stages, with each state receiving varied funding based on its network infrastructure needs. Plans are coming together nationwide to implement these network improvements quickly and efficiently. As the years go on, we should be able to see immense growth in our national connectivity, and it will impact many Americans for generations to come. As a telecommunications engineering company, ATCO also highly values digital equity, and we are excited to see how federal support can help us all work toward a more connected future and ultimately bridge the digital divide.


[1] FCC INCREASES BROADBAND SPEED BENCHMARK. (2024, March 14). Federal Communications Commission | The United States of America. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-increases-broadband-speed-benchmark.

[2] NTIA. (2024). About broadbandusa. BroadbandUSA. https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/about

[3] Telecompetitor. (n.d.). Broadband Nation - States Play a Big Role in BEAD and Other Broadband Funding. Telecompetitor -Providing insight, analysis, and commentary on the evolving telecom competitive landscape. March 18, 2024, https://www.telecompetitor.com/broadband-nation/

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