12M unserved, underserved locations poised to get BEAD funding

With roughly a week remaining before the U.S. government is set to announce state allocations for its $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, industry group ACA Connects has released updated metrics on how many locations are likely to be eligible for BEAD funds and what providers can expect from deployment costs.

According to ACA Connects and its consulting partner Cartesian, there will be approximately 12 million unserved and underserved locations in the U.S. when BEAD funds are allocated. While that is a slight decrease from the 13.1 million Cartesian forecasted last fall, the firm upped the number of eligible fully unserved locations from 8 million to 8.4 million.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) BEAD guidelines consider unserved locations as those lacking access to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream internet speeds. Underserved locations, on the other hand, have speeds lower than 100/20 Mbps. Unserved locations are the priority for BEAD funding.

For their latest study, ACA and Cartesian leveraged the latest data from the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map, which was updated on May 30 with provider data as of December 31, 2022.

By January 2024, only 7.4 million locations will likely be eligible for BEAD funding, said ACA and Cartesian, due to ongoing builds and the removal of “committed” locations – those already covered by federal subsidy programs.

Furthermore, ACA and Cartesian estimate that providers will contribute $21 billion to match the $42.5 billion federal dollars, meaning a total of $64 billion will be available for deployment projects – an amount deemed “sufficient” for making broadband available to “all eligible locations.”

With regards to fiber, the technology NTIA is prioritizing for builds, the study estimates most states and territories “should have sufficient funds” for deployments and that fiber providers will be willing to match up to $3,000 per location – roughly 25% of the total cost of a project.

Using the FCC’s new data, ACA and Cartesian updated their estimated BEAD funding allocations for individual states. Texas is expected to bag the largest chunk of BEAD funds at $3.5 billion, which will have 436,800 unserved locations and 290,000 underserved locations.

ACA state BEAD allocations

Other states poised to receive significant BEAD funding include California ($1.8 billion), to reach an estimated 233,200 unserved and 128,100 underserved locations, Virginia ($1.6 billion), North Carolina ($1.5 billion) and Missouri ($1.5 billion).

States with smaller land masses, like Connecticut ($145 million), Rhode Island ($109 million) and Delaware ($108 million), are expected to receive the least support from BEAD.

As ACA and Cartesian previously indicated, states will receive an average of $743 million in BEAD funding.