November 01, 2023

Wyden Praises Decision to Expand Access to Federal Broadband Program for Rural and Underserved Areas

Administration Announcement Comes After Repeated Pressure From Wyden to Increase Flexibility for Participation in the Federal BEAD program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today praised an announcement by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to help small internet service providers (ISPs) invest in rural and underserved communities across Oregon, by making it easier for them to participate in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. 

Oregon will receive a record $689 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s BEAD program to expand access to broadband internet to rural and underserved communities – the largest single broadband grant in Oregon’s history. NTIA, which is administering the BEAD program at the federal level, had previously required a large financial guarantee from broadband providers, called an irrevocable letter of credit, to participate in the BEAD program. Wyden warned the administration that its policy risked excluding many small, rural, and diverse ISPs across Oregon, as well as nonprofits and municipalities, all of whose participation in the program is vital to its success. 

“Today’s announcement out of NTIA is great news for communities across Oregon, who will be better able to access critical federal funding to boost broadband access in rural and underserved areas of our state,” Wyden said. “Once again, Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson listened to Oregonians and took steps to address their needs, so my constituents can get a fair shake. I’ll be counting on this partnership to continue until every Oregonian has access to reliable, affordable, high-quality broadband.”

NTIA’s announcement will give internet service providers much more flexibility to qualify for the BEAD program, including by allowing Oregon’s credit unions to participate. It will also permit the use of performance bonds, as an alternative to the letter of credit. Additionally, it will also allow the Oregon Broadband Office to reduce obligations on certain ISPs provided they meet provided deployment milestones. 

“We thank Senator Wyden and NTIA for their tireless efforts to ensure our smaller and medium sized ISPs are able to fully participate in the BEAD program to bring access to all Oregonians currently lacking high-speed, reliable broadband internet” said Oregon Broadband Office Director Nick Batz.

“Obtaining an irrevocable letter of credit posed challenges perhaps unique to our small, rural broadband providers operating throughout Oregon,” said Brant Wolf, executive vice president of the Oregon Telecommunications Association. “The relief granted by NTIA will go a long way toward ensuring BEAD program funding is used in the highest, best manner in rural and frontier areas of Oregon! Access to the internet using fiber will provide these rural areas and communities with the highest speed possible, ensuring their place and participation in the 21st century economy.”