NGA Wraps Up Third Broadband Leaders Workshop in Kansas 

NGA hosted its third Broadband Leaders Workshop, June 3-5, in Overland Park, Kansas. Over 60 broadband leaders from around 40 states and territories came together with federal officials, internet service providers and other corporate and non-profit leaders to share best practices, and discuss critical issues in broadband deployment, affordability, and accessibility. This meeting was held at a crucial time for states and territories as they look to commence their sub-grantee procurement for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, the signature broadband program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  

Following a welcome reception on Monday evening, official programming kicked off on Tuesday with welcome remarks from Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. Governor Kelly highlighted her state’s efforts to connect Kansans to high-speed internet and encourage meaningful adoption of digital technologies across the community. 

Governor Kelly’s remarks were followed by several conversations on nuts-and-bolts issues facing states and territories as they implement the BEAD program. A state and federal panel discussed the BEAD challenge process, which is where local and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and broadband service providers can dispute if a location is unserved or underserved and thus eligible for funding. Panelists discussed issues such as dealing with large data sets, “trueing up” challenge results with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) National Broadband Map, and the benefits of working closely with providers. This panel transitioned to two active discussions on managing the sub-grantee selection process, which will determine how funds are allocated to providers to deploy last mile high-speed internet. The first of these focused on best practice approaches for engaging with providers to encourage participation and competition, and the second session dived into ways states and territories are designing their projects areas to maximize participation and minimize BEAD funding outlay.  

A dialogue on aligning federal broadband programs rounded out the Tuesday morning sessions. During this discussion, officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), FCC, U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spoke about how they are managing their broadband programs to deconflict efforts and ensure funding sources work together to achieve universal coverage. This session included a Q&A session with state and territory leaders on the intersection between various broadband initiatives and approaches that they can adopt to address any conflicts that may arise.  

Following the presentation of a new docufilm on rural broadband deployment, programming turned to the important issues of workforce development, meaningful adoption, and non-deployment funding. State and territory participants discussed workforce challenges with corporate and non-profit leaders, exploring issues such as the use of technology to train the future broadband deployment workforce and the role of nonprofits, such as the American Connection Corp, in training the next cohort of broadband leaders. Best practices strategies to improve meaningful adoption and digital equity, such as digital navigators, digital device programs, and data-driven models were then explored on several panels featuring federal, state and corporate leaders. The afternoon wrapped up with a discussion on different approaches being considered for the use of BEAD non-deployment funds for those states expecting to have dollars left over after connecting households, businesses and community anchor institutions, and an inspiring reflection by workshop participants on how high-speed internet deployment and adoption has already changed the lives of individuals and communities across the country.  

The final day focused on the critical issue of deployment. The morning commenced with two discussions on streamlining broadband permitting to accelerate the delivery of high-speed internet to communities. During the first of these discussions, state broadband leaders held a dialogue on federal permitting with a panel of representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the NTIA. The discussions underlined the recent release of guidance to streamline federal permitting activities, emphasized the need for early engagement with federal agencies, and touched on the role of agency collaboration at the state level. The second panel explored permitting challenges with industry and local government partners, and included a discussion on the role of municipalities in facilitating approvals and a reflection on how robust infrastructure and environmental mapping can improve coordination and reduce permitting timeframes.    

The theme of deployment continued with an engaging discussion on non-permitting challenges and opportunities associated with deployment. This included a discussion on working with utilities to facilitate fiber pole attachments, the importance of collaborating with railroads to speed up deployment, and the risks of vandalism and theft to the successful roll-out of high-speed internet. This was followed by a discussion on the intersection between fiber deployment and transportation rights away, which highlighted best practice efforts on this front in Arizona. Official programming ended with a reflection on the long-term challenge ahead, and a closed-door state and territory discussion over lunch.  

NGA thanks Governors’ broadband leaders, federal partners, NGA Partners and other attendees who participated and made it such a worthwhile convening.  A special thanks to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly for kicking off the meeting and to the entire Kansas team. For more information on the NGA broadband and infrastructure program please visit