As founder and chief executive officer of Hometown Lenders, Alabama’s largest independent mortgage lender, I understand how important it is to ensure every Alabamian has access to reliable broadband connections. In today’s economy, internet access is essential, and we still have work to do to get Alabama fully connected. 

The bipartisan Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program offers us an exciting opportunity to close the digital gap in Alabama. With a budget of approximately $42.5 billion, the program aims to bridge the digital divide by bringing high-speed internet to unserved and underserved locations. Thankfully, expanding broadband access has been a top priority for Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, with the state making significant strides in broadband mapping, planning, and deployment. 

Unfortunately, efforts to get rural Alabama connected could be slowed by more red tape from Washington. The Biden administration has taken this opportunity to enforce its liberal agenda on our state by suggesting progressive policies in the funding requirements. The BEAD program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) contains leftist policy suggestions that the Biden administration is attempting to enforce on our state at the risk of sacrificing efficiency. These policy recommendations, which already fall outside the authority of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), propose liberal measures like restrictive employment requirements, rate regulation, and government-owned networks. This is a clear example of the administration’s continued attempts to impose its progressive agenda on otherwise bipartisan solutions. 

To ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the BEAD program, state decision-makers must consider the implications of adopting these progressive policy suggestions. The NTIA's guidance, which contains these recommendations, should be viewed as politically motivated and mere suggestions rather than program requirements. By acknowledging this distinction, we can make informed choices that prioritize efficiency and avoid potential delays or complications. 

The BEAD program holds immense promise for advancing broadband access across our great state. While I commend Ivey and the legislature on the work they have done to close the gap, I encourage them to disregard the NTIA's guidance so we can finish the task of bringing reliable broadband to all Alabamians. 

Billy Taylor is the founder and CEO of Hometown Lenders based in Huntsville, Alabama.

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