How Libraries Can Work with States to Utilize BEAD Funding for Digital Equity

Planning in Process
Library Patrons Using the WiFi

As states develop their BEAD 5-year plans, they are advised by the NTIA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity to leverage “existing infrastructure” and to “minimize BEAD program outlays” in order to stretch the funds to the best possible effect. Many anchor institutions across the country already have publicly-funded fiber connections which could be leveraged to connect the surrounding community. Anchors with less than 1 gig connections are eligible for BEAD funds and could be a key tenant on last-mile network builds. Extending service from anchor institutions to surrounding homes via wireless could be a particularly cost-effective way to connect unserved and underserved homes.

In this article, we will explore the potential role of anchor institutions, such as libraries, in advancing connectivity to the unserved and underserved through the BEAD program. We would like to give special thanks to the SHLB Coalition and its Do Anchors Hold the Key to BEAD’s Success webinar for providing valuable insights and information that contributed to this blog post. If you would like to hear the full discussion from broadband experts in various sectors, you can view it here:

Why Libraries Should Partner with States

Library Patrons Using Fast BEAD WiFi

The Pew Research Center has outlined several key considerations for states seeking to access federal BEAD funding for high-speed internet expansion. These include:

  • Developing a comprehensive state plan that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved communities;
  • Leveraging existing infrastructure to minimize program outlays;
  • Focusing on last-mile solutions that connect homes and businesses;
  • Building public-private partnerships to achieve greater impact and sustainability.
Best Practices for Libraries Working with States

Anchor institutions have a key role to play in the digital equity efforts of BEAD funding. Libraries can serve as connectivity hubs and deploy grants to accommodate the unserved and unconnected education. By following these best practices, libraries can play an important role in advancing connectivity and closing the digital divide in their communities.

  1. Build partnerships with state agencies and other stakeholders to identify and prioritize areas of need. By working with state officials, libraries can help ensure that BEAD funds are directed to the areas where they will have the greatest impact.
  2. Leverage existing infrastructure to minimize program outlays. Libraries can work with state officials to identify opportunities to leverage existing fiber connections. This can serve to extend high-speed internet service to surrounding homes and businesses.
  3. Focus on last-mile solutions that connect homes and businesses. Libraries can work with internet service providers to identify and prioritize last-mile projects that will connect unserved and underserved communities.
  4. Build public-private partnerships to achieve greater impact and sustainability. Libraries can work with state officials, internet service providers, and other stakeholders to build partnerships that leverage the strengths of each partner to achieve greater impact and sustainability.
Get Involved with Your State

Library Patrons Studying Together

Libraries wishing to take an active role in the digital equity efforts in their surrounding communities should reach out to the group or entity receiving BEAD funds for their state. Below are a few states and the links to access the relevant offices. Every state has been awarded planning funds according to Telecompetitor and the NTIA. With this money the agencies and departments responsible for deployment can now begin developing their 5 year plans. 

Now is an excellent time for libraries to reach out to their states  and get involved in the planning processes. Many states are hosting meetings with local governments to discuss the best process for deploying broadband initiatives such as the State of Iowa found here. Other states have dedicated Broadband offices which already have some information available on the state’s 5 year plan such as the State of South Dakota found here. Building relationships with these state entities is a great way to ensure successful deployment of BEAD funds within your community. 

We’ve gathered a list of some of these agencies and their websites by state for your convenience:


Over the next 5 years all 50 states are a part of this $42.5 billion project to support digital equity. The best way to ensure the BEAD program’s success is to involve community stakeholders like libraries. These community anchors can connect broadband offices with the patrons who will need their services. 

Advocating for funding requires both compelling stories as well as data to support them. If you would like to learn more about simplifying reporting on library services, we would like to learn more about your library. Visit email us at to schedule a meeting.