BEAD Director Warns There is Not Enough Capacity


Feinman warns that BEAD is already stressing the telecom sector with construction constraints and permitting requirements

BEAD Director Warns There is Not Enough Capacity Photo of Evan Feinman, BEAD director at NTIA, by Denny Henry

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2024 – Evan Feinman, director of the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, said in a webinar Tuesday that the program has “tight timeframes” paired with “not enough capacity in the sector” to build all the projects at the same time.

“There’s going to be a limit,” Feinman said. “We’re already stressing this sector pretty hard, and the amount of equipment that exists to bore under particularly long and wide overpasses and other rivers, obviously, is pretty limited.” 

Dealing with construction constraints is just one aspect to consider, he continued, as there are also regulatory requirements for attaching conduits to bridges and overpasses to connect underserved homes and businesses.

“Big and complicated infrastructure projects take a while. None of this is going to happen overnight,” said Feinman, adding that the first stage of that work will be obtaining permits for the equipment to use existing infrastructure. 

Network construction is still in the early stages, and permitting delays may cause construction crews to be reassigned to other jobs, making it difficult to get them back on track within the project’s four-year timeline, warned Feinman. 

Since the announcement of the $42.5 billion BEAD program, experts have pointed to permitting as a major potential hold up in deployment. Many urged states and providers to engage in the permitting process early to avoid surprising delays, warning that the average permitting process takes between 18 and 24 months.

Feinman told attendees that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is currently reviewing the blueprint of state’s plans, after which state subgrantee selection processes will begin. Hundreds of projects will be approved during this six- to twelve-month approval period.