The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program has $42.5 billion available to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. States will administer the program but must first have a plan approved by the NTIA and, as new research from BroadbandNow shows, some states face an important hurdle as they prepare their plans – a hurdle that involves anti-municipal broadband laws.
Twenty-one states have laws in place that prohibit or restrict municipal broadband networks, BroadbandNow notes. And those laws are at odds with rules for the BEAD program, which say that states must disclose whether they will waive anti-municipal broadband laws, including laws that either prevent municipalities from applying for BEAD funding or that “impose specific requirements on public sector entities, such as limitations on the sources of financing, the required imputation of costs not actually incurred by the public sector entity, or restrictions on the service a public sector entity can offer.”
If a state does not plan to waive the laws, it must describe how the laws will be applied in connection with the application process. And, according to the researchers, the NTIA has included language in the BEAD rules that could enable municipalities to apply for funding directly if their state will not consider their applications.
Minnesota is one of the states with a restriction, BroadbandNow lists it…
Minnesota state laws require municipal governments proposing to offer telecommunications exchange to obtain a referendum “supermajority” of 65% of voters to proceed. Municipal governments are able to construct, extend, improve and maintain facilities for Internet access only if the city council finds that the proposed broadband network and service will not compete with existing services provided by private telecom companies, or if such services are not and will not be available through private telecom companies in the foreseeable future.
The rule is getting more antiquated every day but it’s still important. Some subscribers will want landline services and a barrier to offering that service is indeed a barrier.