If your government is operating from a rural location, there’s a serious chance that your internet and internet infrastructure are far from modern, and likely lack the capabilities of modern technology. According to the USDA, 22% of rural areas (and 27% of tribal lands) continue to lack modern broadband service which combats efforts towards equality in your community and limits the opportunities of constituents.
Without modern internet quality, your local government can’t make a modern digital transformation, causing government workflows to operate inefficiently by current standards, and hindering economic development by discouraging businesses from choosing to operate in your community.
Fortunately, the Federal government recognizes the problems with poor broadband infrastructure, and is offering states and territories with rural areas grant dollars to bring modern Internet to their communities.
Follow along for everything you need to know about BEAD grants for rural American townships, and how your municipal or county government can take action to apply funds allocated to your state.
What are Federal BEAD Grants?
As explained by the federal government’s Internet for All website, the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, “provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed Internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs.”
The bill is meant to modernize communities that are falling behind due to lackluster Internet infrastructure to create more accessibility nationwide. Grants are accessible to state and territory governments and to be applied to rural neighborhoods.
Who is Eligible for BEAD Grants?
The grant, “supports infrastructure deployment, mapping, and adoption,” for high-speed Internet in unserved locations (with no access to 25/3 Mbps Internet speeds) and underserved locations (with no access to 100/20 Mbps Internet speeds.)
Applications were to be filed at the state (or territory) level by August 15, 2022. States and territories are expected to work in tandem with local governments to implement the funds in an effective way.
Why is the Federal Government Prioritizing Rural Internet Infrastructure?
Compared to most urban and suburban neighborhoods across the United States, rural Americans tend to have less access to broadband Internet. As most people utilize digital technology and businesses and governments make digital transformations, the Federal government recognizes that rural areas will continue to fall behind as the world and business operations move further into a digital capacity.
Learn more about How Local Governments Benefit From Broadband Internet.
What are the Benefits of Broadband Internet Access for Local Governments?
You might be wondering: Why does my rural community even need high-speed Internet? Here are the benefits for your community and local government:
1. Economic Development
Recent Deloitte research highlights that, “higher broadband speeds drive noticeable improvements in job growth.” As more businesses move towards digital infrastructure, high-speed Internet can stimulate your community by enticing corporations, entrepreneurs, and remote workers that require high-speed Internet but don’t want a big city cost of living.
The bill specifically allows for grants to be used for improving Internet infrastructure in residential multi-family buildings, which can help with increasing local property values and create more upward mobility in your community by providing equal resources to all families.
Here’s more tips for Counties & Municipalities to Drive Local Economic Development.
2. Digital Government Workflows
Many municipalities have embraced government software across departments to automate time consuming workflows, collect tangible government data, and move business and citizen forms online. Embracing the government cloud is a no brainer for governments that want to improve antiquated workflows.
Explore the GovPilot guide about How Automation Can Transform Local Governments for more information.
3. Mobile Government Field Devices
Your local government officials have countless reasons to work from the field, from inspections to code enforcement to infrastructure maintenance. With community-wide high-speed Internet, your government officials no longer need to take notes and file paperwork by hand; they can simply complete all relevant paperwork via a cell phone or tablet in the field and submit it to the cloud. The documentation will automatically be made accessible to all relevant officials across government departments.
How Can Mobile Field Devices Transform Government Field Work? Read on to find out.
4. Improved Government IT Department Functionality
A key component to an effective government IT strategy is maintaining computer systems by modern standards. That means if your locality is still operating with slow Internet and antiquated computer systems, you’re doing a disservice to your community and not following government cybersecurity best practices. Embracing broadband Internet infrastructure will allow your municipality to upgrade your IT systems with the cloud, automate IT ticketing, and stay more protected from a cybersecurity or ransomware attack to operate a significantly more efficient local government.
5. Online Form Filing
People are too busy to drive to the clerk’s department every time they need to file paperwork. Once your government and citizens have high-speed Internet, point community-members and business owners to your government website to file:
- Building and construction permits
- Zoning permits
- Open record requests
- Business registration
- Inspection requests
- Pet licenses
- Government project bids
- Court decision appeals
- ANY other type of form your government frequently uses
Here are more insights into How Going Digital Streamlines Constituent Services.
5. Online Fee & Fine Processing
If your citizens don’t want to drive to the clerk’s office to file paperwork, they definitely don’t want to do so for paying fees or fines. Luckily, with GovPilot’s software integration with various credit card processing platforms, community-members can utilize their new high-speed Internet to make payments online instead of in-person.
Learn more about Modern Government Fee & Fine Processing.
Can Local Governments File for BEAD Grants?
The Federal government only allowed for states and territories to file for BEAD grants. Your state should have filed by August 15, 2022 to receive funding. That being said, Internet speeds and infrastructure vary drastically from community to community, meaning that your locality can expect to work in tandem with the state to ensure funds are being allocated towards the right projects in your community regardless of which government entity filed for the grant.
Your government leadership should consider the current speed of your Internet, the types of infrastructure you already have, and the types of infrastructure needed to improve Internet speed for your community and citizens.
If you haven’t heard from them already, do some research into the department handling Internet infrastructure in your state and consider reaching out to discuss how BEAD grants can be utilized in your community.
Consider the Texas Infrastructure Bill, what it did for broadband internet access in Texas, and how similar bills can assist your municipality.
How Are BEAD Grant Funds Allowed to Be Allocated?
The BEAD FAQ document outlines the following use cases for BEAD grant funds:
- “Deploying and/or upgrading broadband network facilities in connection with an Unserved Service Project or an Underserved Service Project.”
- “Deploying and/or upgrading broadband network facilities to provide or improve service to an eligible community anchor institution.”
- “Data collection, broadband mapping, and planning to the extent necessary beyond the planning fund allocation to facilitate the goals and deliverables of the BEAD Program”
- Installing internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure or providing reduced-cost broadband within a multi-family residential building, with priority given to a residential building that has substantial share of unserved households or is in a location in which the percentage of individuals with a household income that is at or below 150 percent of the poverty line applicable to a family of the size involved is higher than the national percentage of such individuals”
- “Broadband adoption, including programs to provide affordable internet-capable devices”
- “Training and workforce development.” More Internet use means your local government officials need to use cybersecurity best practices.
- Here is a resource for Training Government Workers About Cybersecurity.
- Here is a resource for Training Government Workers About Cybersecurity.
- “Other uses, including other Digital Equity programs not already included above, proposed by Eligible Entities and approved in advance in writing by the Assistant Secretary that support the goals of the Program”
Other federal legislation is allocating funds towards digital infrastructure too. Here are more options to consider for embracing broadband technology and government software without dipping into your existing budget:
- Federal Cybersecurity Grants for Local Governments: Everything to Know
- US Infrastructure Bill: What It Means for Local Governments
- American Rescue Plan Act: What It Means for Local Governments
Other Broadband Internet Access Grant Options Beside BEAD Infrastructure Grants
Consider other grants and programs that aim to deploy improved Broadband Internet Access and how these and grants like them can transform your community:
The State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) was created under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. SLIGP provides resources that assist regional, state, local and tribal government entities as they plan for the nationwide public safety broadband network being developed by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
$116.5 million in grants to 54 U.S. states and territories have been awarded through this program. This funding provides recipients with the resources to work with citizens and municipal workers throughout the state or territory to identify needs, accessibility gaps, and vital priorities for public wireless broadband safety.
The ReConnect Loan and Grant Program organizes loans and grants that provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. This program offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to local and state governments to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas of the country that do not currently have sufficient access to broadband.
Through this program, up to $150,000,000 is available for loans/grants for broadband internet in communities nationwide while up to $350,000,000 is available for loans/grants for Alaska Native Corporations, Tribal Governments, Colonies, Persistent Poverty Areas and Socially Vulnerable Communities. In dispersing these funds and facilitating the expansion of broadband services and infrastructure, the program aims to encourage long-term economic development in rural America.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is administered by USAC with oversight from the Federal Communications Commission and aims to bring affordable broadband internet to underserved communities and households nationwide. Due to legislation from President Biden's Administration, nearly 40% of Americans can qualify for free high-speed Internet through this program.
The Affordable Connectivity Program helps low-income families pay for Internet service that would otherwise be inaccessible to their household. Families can receive up to $30 per month, (or $75 per month if they live on qualifying Tribal Lands) towards broadband internet service connection and can receive $100 to help pay for a household desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.
Bringing Broadband to Rural America
In an increasingly digital world, your local government owes it to your citizens and businesses to have high-speed Internet access and streamlined constituent services. Consider your community’s current Internet speeds and infrastructure and work with the relevant state or territory officials to allocate BEAD funds towards bringing modern Internet speeds to your citizens and local government. Don’t allow your community and its residents to fall behind in the digital age where access to opportunities and educational resources are vital and mainly available online.
Using high-speed Internet will allow your government to go fully digital with cloud-based data storage, online applications, and automated workflows. Learn more about how GovPilot can assist in your digital transformation with a free demo.
BEAD Grant FAQs
1. Why Do Rural Communities Need Modern Internet Infrastructure?
The American economy (and global economy in general) is becoming increasingly reliant on Internet infrastructure. For rural economies that are at risk of falling behind, the feelings will worsen if your local government and citizens don’t have modern broadband infrastructure for high-speed Internet to drive local economic development.
Most rural communities are not able to provide their citizens with much opportunity for upward mobility and disability inclusion because the communities have less resources regarding financial advancement. With broadband internet, citizens can go online to find new and higher paying job opportunities, resources on financial literacy, register for municipal services, and much more.
2. How Can Rural Local Governments Benefit From Broadband Internet?
Local governments can move their public records storage and forms to a cloud-based government software platform with proper computer systems. Things like permits, licenses, document requests, and court appeals can all be completed directly from your government website, and government fees and fines can be processed online.
Administrative government tasks can be automated to take things like document filing, scheduling processes, and document requests off of your government workers’ plates with proper government Internet infrastructure and speeds.
3. How Can Rural Community-Members Benefit From Broadband Internet?
Just as your local government will benefit from online forms and payment processing, citizens will be delighted to not have to drive to the clerk’s office to file paperwork or pay their taxes.Most modern businesses tend to function from a digital capacity. Offering high-speed Internet will encourage local economic development as more businesses see the value in operating within your community.
Community members will also have access to more opportunities for work, educational resources, and social services through broadband access.
4. What Digital Technology Should Local Governments Be Using?
Local government software that pairs nicely with high-speed Internet includes:
- Online forms like permits, pet licenses, document requests, public space rentals, etc.
- Online fee and fine processing for taxes, code violations, permit application fees, etc.
- Automation of tedious government tasks like filing paperwork, scheduling government services, etc.
- Online storage of public records and remote access to relevant documents (which means your government officials can operate from a remote or hybrid capacity with mobile field devices)
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