NTCA/FBA Rolling Out Version 3 of Broadband Playbook

Randy Sukow

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NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association and the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) have begun online release of the latest update of their Broadband Infrastructure Playbook. The two associations have been keeping track of the various broadband funding programs to assist rural internet providers filing applications. The latest update of the playbook covers changes to the funding landscape since recent developments to the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

NTCA and FBA are releasing the playbook online in modules. So far, they have released two modules and plan to continue releasing additional chapters in coming months.

The first new model covers local permitting and rights of way, and the second explains the concept of Extremely High Cost per Location Threshold (EHCT). States and territories must submit an EHCT analysis, goals and methodology to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in their initial BEAD proposals. EHCT is meant to specify the situations when “prioritization or preference for fiber projects ceases and the eligible entity may consider use of an alternate technology on equal footing,” according to the playbook.

“Our organizations are unabashedly pro-fiber. We believe, and research supports, that fiber represents the most efficient and effective, long-term investment in virtually all cases,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield and a recent blog post.  “Moreover, it is the technology that will level the playing field, giving residents and businesses in rural and more remote locations the same opportunity that those living and working in urban and suburban areas have.”

At the same time, Bloomfield agreed that “federal funding is finite” and that it could be too costly to build fiber in some rural regions. The EHCT is an important calculation because setting the threshold too low could mean fewer homes will have the benefit of full fiber connectivity. But setting the threshold too high “could lead to BEAD funding being depleted before every unserved location is connected.”

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