California, Texas, Florida tipped to get most BEAD funding

Now that the first version of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new broadband map is out, providers across the country are likely scrambling to calculate how much money each state is set to get from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. If estimates put out by industry group ACA Connects are to be believed, California, Texas and Florida are set to get the most support from the program, while Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island will reap the least.

Under the BEAD program, each state will receive a baseline allocation of $100 million, with additional funding allocated based on the number of unserved locations in each state. According to a study consulting firm Cartesian put together for ACA Connects, there will be an estimated 11.7 million unserved locations across the U.S. in 2023 when the money is divvied up and states will receive an average of $743 million in BEAD funding. Unserved locations were classified as those which did not have access to speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

The study predicted California will receive the largest chunk of BEAD funding, with a total of $3.5 billion to serve an estimated 581,800 unserved locations and another 299,700 underserved locations with speeds of less than 100/20 Mbps.

Texas won’t be far behind. It is forecast to get approximately $3.2 billion in BEAD support to reach 574,200 unserved locations and 531,800 underserved sites. Florida, meanwhile, was tipped to receive $2.3 billion to reach 484,100 unserved locations and 294,600 underserved ones.

To be clear, the estimates from Cartesian were not based on the FCC’s new broadband map. Instead, the firm started with old Form 477 data, added unserved locations from a BroadbandNow study, removed locations covered by Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) commitments and factored in estimates for locations expected to be covered by privately-funded builds to arrive at its estimate for the number of locations eligible for BEAD funding. 

While it is unlikely to perfectly line up with the final BEAD calculations given the changes the FCC has made to its coverage data collection process, the Cartesian figures offer a baseline for understanding where funding is likely to be concentrated. An ACA Connects representative told Fierce it does plan to update its estimates using the new FCC maps, but noted that effort could take several more weeks given the maps were only just unveiled.

In terms of which states will receive the least support from BEAD, the initial Cartesian study pointed to Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island.

Massachusetts was tipped to get $169 million to cover 30,400 unserved locations; Delaware $128 million for 7,900 unserved locations; and Rhode Island $104 million for 695 unserved locations.

All three states have been looking to achieve universal broadband coverage, with Delaware awarding $56 million to Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom in March to reach 11,000 unserved locations there within 36 months.  And just last month, Massachusetts snagged $145 million in Capital Projects Fund money to cover an estimated 16,000 underserved locations through its Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program.