2021 Florida Statutes (Including 2021B Session)
Broadband Opportunity Program.
Broadband Opportunity Program.
288.9962 Broadband Opportunity Program.—
(1) The Broadband Opportunity Program is established within the office to award grants to applicants who seek to expand broadband Internet service to unserved areas of this state. The office must administer and act as fiscal agent for the program and is responsible for receiving and reviewing applications and awarding grants.
(2) Subject to appropriation, grants shall be awarded under this section to fund the installation or deployment of infrastructure that supports the provision of broadband Internet service. Grant funds may not be used to install or deploy broadband Internet service to a geographic area in which broadband Internet service is already deployed by at least one provider.
(3) Applicants eligible for grant awards include:
(a) Corporations, limited liability companies, general partnerships, and limited partnerships that are organized under the laws of this state or otherwise authorized to transact business in this state.
(b) Political subdivisions.
(c) Indian tribes.
(4) The office may not award, directly or indirectly, grants under this section to a governmental entity or an educational institution or affiliate to provide broadband Internet service to any residential or commercial premises, unless other broadband Internet service providers have not deployed service to an unserved area.
(5) An eligible applicant shall submit a grant application to the office on a form prescribed by the office. A grant application must include the following information:
(a) A description of the project area.
(b) A description of the kind and amount of broadband Internet service infrastructure that is proposed.
(c) Evidence demonstrating the unserved nature of the project area.
(d) The number of households and businesses that would have access to broadband Internet service as a result of the grant.
(e) A list of significant community institutions that would benefit from the grant.
(f) The total cost of the project and the timeframe in which it would be completed.
(g) A list identifying sources of funding or in-kind contributions that would supplement any awarded grant.
(h) Any other information required by the office.
(6)(a) At least 30 days before the first day grant applications may be submitted each fiscal year, the office shall publish on its website the specific criteria and quantitative scoring system it will use to evaluate or rank grant applications. Such criteria and quantitative scoring system must include the criteria set forth in subsection (8).
(b) Within 3 business days after the close of the grant application process, the office shall publish on its website, from each grant application submitted, the proposed unserved areas to be served and the proposed broadband Internet speeds of the areas to be served.
(c) A broadband Internet service provider that provides existing service in or adjacent to a proposed project area may submit to the office, within 45 days after publication of the information under paragraph (b), a written challenge to an application. The challenge shall contain information demonstrating that:
1. The provider currently has deployed broadband Internet service to retail customers within the project area;
2. The provider has begun construction to provide broadband Internet service to retail customers within the proposed project area within the timeframe proposed by the applicant; or
3. The provider commits to providing broadband Internet service to retail customers within the proposed project area within the timeframe proposed by the applicant.
(d) Within 3 business days after the submission of a written challenge, the office shall notify the applicant, in writing, of the challenge.
(e) The office shall evaluate each challenge submitted under this subsection. If the office determines that the provider currently has deployed, has begun construction to provide, or commits to provide broadband Internet service in the proposed project area, the office may not fund the challenged project.
(f) If the office denies funding to an applicant as a result of a broadband Internet service provider’s challenge and the provider does not fulfill its commitment to provide broadband Internet service in the unserved area, the office may not consider another challenge from the provider for the next two grant application cycles, unless the office determines that the failure to fulfill the commitment was due to circumstances beyond the provider’s control.
(7)(a) In evaluating grant applications and awarding grants, the office must give priority to applications that:
1. Offer broadband Internet service to important community institutions, including, but not limited to, libraries, educational institutions, public safety facilities, and health care facilities;
2. Facilitate the use of telemedicine and electronic health records;
3. Serve economically distressed areas of this state, as measured by indices of unemployment, poverty, or population loss that are significantly greater than the statewide average;
4. Provide for scalability to transmission speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload;
5. Include a component to actively promote the adoption of the newly available broadband Internet service in the community;
6. Provide evidence of strong support for the project from citizens, government, businesses, and institutions in the community;
7. Provide access to broadband Internet service to the greatest number of unserved households and businesses;
8. Leverage greater amounts of funding for a project from private sources; or
9. Demonstrate consistency with the strategic plan adopted under s. 288.9961.
(b) The office must endeavor to award grants to qualified applications serving all regions of this state.
(8)(a) The office may not award any grant to an otherwise eligible grant applicant to provide broadband Internet service in a project area for which any other federal funding has been awarded.
(b) A grant awarded under this section may not be used to serve any retail end user that already has access to broadband Internet service.
(c) A grant awarded under this section, when combined with any state or local funds, may not fund more than 50 percent of the total cost of a project.
(d) A single project may not be awarded a grant in excess of $5 million.
(9) For each grant awarded, the office shall enter into an agreement with the applicant. The agreement must specify the total amount of the grant, performance conditions that must be met to obtain the grant, the schedule of payment, and sanctions that would apply for failure to meet performance conditions, including, but not limited to, requiring the return of grant funds.
(10) By January 1, 2023, and each year thereafter, the office shall publish on its website and provide to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives:
(a) A list of all grant applications received during the previous fiscal year and for each application:
1. The results of any quantitative weighting or scoring system the office used to award grants or rank the applications.
2. The grant amounts requested.
3. The grant amounts awarded, if any.
4. A report on the progress of each grant recipient in acquiring and installing infrastructure that supports the provision of broadband Internet service in the project areas for which that grant was awarded and in securing adoption of such service in each project area.
(b) All written challenges filed during the previous year and the results of those challenges.
History.—s. 5, ch. 2021-24.