The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released the second round Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on Friday, July 28, 2023.
The second TBCP round consists of $980 million in grant funding, appropriated by Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act as part of $2 billion in additional TBCP funding, for broadband infrastructure deployment and broadband use and adoption projects. In the first round, NTIA awarded around $1.79 billion for 191 total projects. Most of this—114 projects for $1.66 billion—were for broadband infrastructure deployment grants.
NTIA received applications totaling approximately $5 billion in the first round, leaving the total funding about $2 billion less than this demand. The NTIA will prioritize second round funding, but many projects are likely to go unfunded.
In addressing this situation, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated this excess demand may be funded by the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.
The application window is 180 days, which is longer than the first round’s 60-day window, and applications are due January 23, 2024.
Changes in the Second Round
In the second round, NTIA will prioritize broadband use and adoption and broadband infrastructure projects, while standalone planning and feasibility projects won’t be considered. To meet equitable distributions requirements, NTIA will award a minimum of $500,000 to any applicant that didn’t receive a grant award during in the first round.
There are several changes from round one that are likely the result of Congressional inquiries, inspector general reports, and NTIA Tribal engagement.
These changes mostly revolve around the ability of Tribal governments to self-certify the unserved status of infrastructure deployment projects. There’s an expanded mapping requirement that requires applicants to document information via a geographic information system (GIS) shapefile.
Following are some key points of the TBCP Round 2 NOFO:
The following are eligible to apply:
- Tribal governments
- Tribal colleges or universities
- Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL)
- Tribal organizations
- Native corporations
Consortiums are encouraged, and eligible entities may only submit one application.
Eligible Tribal organizations and colleges must obtain a Resolution of Consent from the Tribal government.
There are two main types of proposals:
- Broadband Use and Adoption
- Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
The expected funding ranges are:
- Infrastructure deployment: $1 million–$50 million
- Use and adoption: $100,000–$2.5 million
Proposals for amounts over these ranges require an explanation. There is no matching requirement.
The eligible uses of funding are:
- Broadband infrastructure deployment projects
- Affordable broadband programs, including providing free or reduced-cost broadband service and preventing disconnection of existing broadband service
- Preventing disconnection of existing broadband service
- Distance learning
- Digital inclusion efforts including digital equity planning and workforce development activities
- Broadband adoption activities
What Constitutes Qualifying Broadband Service (QBS)?
Qualifying broadband service has a speed of not less than 25/3 megabits per second (Mbps) and a latency sufficient to support real time, interactive applications. For purposes of this program, NTIA will interpret the 25/3 standard to mean the ability to provide 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream simultaneously to every household in the eligible service area.
Who Is Eligible?
Eligible entities that received first-round funding may apply for additional funding in the second round.
If there’s more TBCP funding available, NTIA will then consider applications for Broadband Infrastructure Deployment projects from eligible entities, including consortium applications, that received awards in the first round of TBCP funding and applied in the second round for TBCP funding for additional project activities provided they successfully completed their first-round projects or are on track to do so.
Tribal governments will be able to self-certify as to the unserved status of proposed project areas. Several conditions were placed on this after the first round.
If the Tribe is aware of facilities deployed on Tribal lands capable of delivering QBS, it must disclose this fact.
The Tribe must consult the National Broadband Map. If the Tribe doesn’t agree with the availability reflected, it must submit a challenge via the FCC’s process and provide documentation to NTIA.
Enforceable Buildout Commitment (EBC) Disclosure
The Tribe must also disclose whether it has an EBC with any provider in the proposed service area. Areas covered by an EBC may not be certified as unserved.
An EBC is a legally binding agreement in which the Tribe provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity in a Tribal Government Resolution and in the contract vehicle between the Tribal government of the Tribal lands in the proposed service area, or its authorized agent, and a service provider committing to deliver QBS.
The Tribe must identify the distance to the nearest fiber node and any libraries within the proposed deployment area receiving E-Rate funding.
NTIA will perform a de-duplication review of any areas covered by a Tribal government self-certification, included an independent verification of these areas using, for example, the National Broadband Map and may negotiate with applicants to cure de-duplication issues.
Applicants must submit GIS shapefiles consistent with the project narrative for infrastructure deployment projects, which could include the following data elements:
- Proposed and existing fiber
- Proposed and existing infrastructure such as towers, power poles, buildings, or structures
- Distance or location of overhead construction
- Distance or location of underground construction
- Drop points, noting whether overhead or underground
- Fiber counts
- Innerduct size and count
- Handholes and testing stations
- Power supply and backup power
- Backhaul connection
- Tribal boundary
- Tribal home locations and proposed connections
- Tribal business locations and proposed connections
- Community Anchor Institution locations and proposed connections
- Proposed service area
- Last mile connections, proposed and existing
- Points of presence
- Proposed or existing network shelter
- Census blocks
- Network propagation maps
Eligible applicants will be considered according to NTIA priorities.
- Single application from DHHL
- Standalone Broadband Use and Adoption projects
- Standalone Broadband Infrastructure Deployment projects submitted by recipients of awards for Planning, Engineering, Feasibility, and Sustainability projects during the first round of TBCP funding or those who received equitable distribution awards to purchase supplies and equipment under the first TBCP NOFO
- Standalone Broadband Infrastructure Deployment projects from Eligible Entities that didn’t receive TBCP funding in the first round of funding
- Dual Broadband Infrastructure Deployment and Broadband Use and Adoption project applications from eligible entities that didn’t receive TBCP funding in the first round of funding
- Remaining applications from federally recognized Tribes eligible to receive the equitable allocation of up to $500,000 if NTIA determines it’s unable to fully fund the applicant’s original request due to the availability of TBCP funding. Equitable distributions of up to $500,000 will be awarded only to Tribal Governments that have not previously received a TBCP award, which includes equitable distribution awards, in the first round of funding from the TBCP
- If TBCP funding remains available, NTIA will then consider applications for Broadband Infrastructure Deployment projects from eligible entities including consortium applications that received awards in the first round of TBCP funding and applied in the second round for TBCP funding for additional project activities provided they successfully completed their first-round projects or are on track to do so
Broadband Use and Adoption
Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
Applications scoring 70–100 will be qualified for funding and will then go through the programmatic review process, including a de-duplication of support review.
We’re Here to Help
To learn more about how this funding opportunity could affect your Tribal organization, contact your Moss Adams professional.