As we move into the second half of 2022, there are a series of action items Broadband Service Providers (BSP) should have on your agenda. First, BSPs should be preparing for the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC), where your submissions are due by September 1st. As opposed to your Form 477 submissions, which indicate the census blocks where you have broadband service available, the DODC is on a location-basis, and you will need to submit that information by shapefile or address. Further, you will need to pay close attention to the DODC certification and other requirements, which the FCC will use to help verify the data. The FCC ‘s Broadband Task Force has launched a help desk and tutorials to assist you, and you should check these out. (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-launches-tutorials-help-center-broadband-data-collection).
Second, applications for the NTIA’s $1B Middle Mile Grant program are due by September 30th. Virtually any entity can submit a grant application, and applicants have flexibility in tailoring the submission to fit any number of middle mile needs – including providing transport to an internet exchange point, backhauling from a cell site, or connecting various last mile networks to a hub. You can access additional information about the program at https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/grant-programs/enabling-middle-mile-broadband-infrastructure-program.
Third, while we know that States will not be awarding deployment funding from the $42.45B Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) for some time, that does not mean that BSPs should just sit back and watch the action. Rather, as States work on their Action Plans and Initial Proposals for BEAD funding over the next 6-12 or so months, now is the time for BSPs to begin assessing whether they can put together a last mile project in an eligible unserved or underserved area. And, then if you believe you have a viable project (or projects), I suggest you get with community groups, local government agencies, and the State broadband agency to get their buy-in.
Finally, for any BSPs that are receiving FCC ACAM support, you should make sure to review the FCC’s new support proposal (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-proposes-higher-speed-goals-small-rural-broadband-providers-0). Comments are due this summer, and the FCC may adopt a final decision by the end of the year.