Funding for Broadband Construction Available

Dylan Baker's picture

The mechanism to partially fund the construction costs of bringing broadband Internet service to school and public libraries in Idaho is in place – and could reduce libraries’ cost to zero.

Known as BIIG, the broadband infrastructure improvement grant fund, was passed by the Idaho State Legislature in 2016, as Title 33, Chapter 910.

Administered by the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE), the BIIG fund is used to invest in special construction projects to bring the necessary infrastructure into the school or library for broadband Internet access. This fund would even allow for infrastructure construction into a town, if there was none existing, and then into the school or library.

Schools, grades K through 12, and public libraries that receive, or are eligible, for E-rate* funding may qualify for BIIG funding, up to 10 percent of the cost of an eligible special construction project. 

The BIIG funding is supplemental to the federal E-rate funding, which ranges from 20 to 90 percent, under the original program, plus up to an additional 10 percent under the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Second E-rate Modernization Order**, which was put into effect December 11, 2014.

As an example, if a public library receives (or is eligible to receive) a discount of 80 percent for their Internet construction costs under E-rate, and they receive a 10 percent reimbursement under BIIG, the remaining 10 percent of the cost could be matched under the Second E-rate Modernization Order – bringing the construction cost for the library to zero.

The SDE determines eligibility qualifications and applicant priority for BIIG funding, which has been appropriated at $2.7 million.

These funding programs help achieve the FCC’s goal of ensuring that the nation’s schools and libraries have access to robust, high-speed broadband connections.

The number of Idahoans visiting libraries and attending library programs has never been greater and is among the highest, per capita, of all states. And the number of people accessing the Internet through library computers and wireless networks continues to grow. For fiscal year 2015, which ran October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, nearly 2.6 million Idahoans utilized the Internet at their public library. This was up from 1.8 million users in just four years.

State Librarian Ann Joslin said, “Whether through books, computing, Internet access, and as places for hands-on learning, libraries have always helped people explore ideas. And these state and federal funding sources for broadband Internet access are powerful tools for our libraries to provide Idahoans with a gateway to 21st-century education and learning.”

Anyone considering special construction should contact Michael Bartz at the State Department of Education, mbartz@sde.idaho.gov, to register your interest. And you must include initial installation and configuration as part of your E-rate application (the deadline for Form 470 for the 2017 Funding Year is April 13, 2017.)

Additional Resources:

*The E-rate program is formally known as the Schools and Libraries universal service support program.

**The Federal Communications Commission’s Second E-rate Modernization Order is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).