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$980 million in broadband grants available for tribes

Oct 04, 2023

The second round of funding for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) has been released. The program aims to improve access to high-speed internet on tribal lands, helping support telehealth, remote learning, remote employment, online entrepreneurship and similar opportunities.

This second notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) makes an additional $980 million in grants available to tribal entities “for deployment of internet infrastructure, affordability programs, telehealth and distance learning initiatives.”

TBCP eligibility

The following entities can apply for the grants until January 23, 2024:

  • Tribal government 
  • Tribal college or university 
  • The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on behalf of the Native Hawaiian community, including Native Hawaiian education programs
  • Tribal organization or Alaska Native corporation  

    The types of projects eligible for funding include:

  • Broadband infrastructure deployment, including support for the establishment of carrier-neutral submarine cable landing stations
  • Affordable broadband programs, including providing free or reduced-cost broadband service and preventing disconnection of existing broadband service
  • Distance learning
  • Telehealth
  • Digital inclusion efforts (which may include digital equity planning and workforce development activities)
  • Broadband adoption activities 

More information and applications for funding can be found here.

Updates for the second NOFO

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) met with a group of tribal leaders after the first round of funding to gather input on priorities and how to improve the application process. The feedback received from these consultations, as well as the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, has helped shape the second NOFO and its application requirements.

Key changes include:

  • Extending the application period: Tribal entities will now have a six-month application window, compared to the 90-day window for the first NOFO.
  • Shifting focus: The focus for the second NOFO is funding infrastructure deployment projects. As a result, digital inclusion projects will be allocated not more than $100 million and standalone planning projects are not eligible. Additionally, tribes that did not receive funding or awards under the first NOFO will get priority.
  • Adding new criteria: Tribal entities that apply will be evaluated and prioritized based on how they promote workforce development projects, including those that promote the development of technology-based jobs.
  • Updating reporting requirements: To prevent duplication of funding, the second NOFO is formalizing processes, including new Office of Inspector General compliance requirements and geographical information system shapefiles submission requirements.

For more details on what’s changed with the second NOFO, check here.

The application process

If your tribal entity is interested in applying for the second round of funding for the TBCP, it's important to understand the application process and requirements. The following are some of the key steps you can take to help ensure a smoother process:

  • Attend NTIA webinars: NTIA will be hosting webinars during the application window to provide technical assistance and discuss NOFO topics. Attending these webinars can help clarify any questions or concerns you may have about the application process.
  • Prepare application materials: NTIA has created guidance materials, including budget and project narrative submissions, to assist tribes in applying for funding. These materials should be carefully reviewed and completed to accurately represent your tribal entity's proposed broadband connectivity project.
  • Submit your application online: Applications for the TBCP must be submitted online through the grants.gov system. The deadline for submitting applications for the second round of funding is January 23, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
  • Monitor your application status: After submitting your application, it's important to monitor its status. NTIA may request additional information or clarification during the evaluation process. Being responsive and providing requested information in a timely manner can help expedite the review of your application.

How Wipfli can help

Secure the grant funding you need with Wipfli. Our dedicated team is ready to support you with guidance in project tracking, reporting and monitoring legislative changes, so that you can stay confident in the progress of your projects. Contact us today to learn how we can help you take advantage of new opportunities to impact your tribe.

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Lisa Desotelle, CPA
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