Hidden Truth: You don’t need to become an ISP to win in BEAD

Broadband Funding

As many cooperatives discover that they are sitting on a BEAD goldmines, it raises an important question: Can cooperatives win in BEAD without becoming ISPs, or internet service providers? 

The answer is a resounding yes – and doing so can bring an additional revenue stream to cooperatives for their existing infrastructure. 

Cooperatives possess a powerful legacy as public resource stewards alongside decades of success delivering critical services to members. Many are uninterested in pivoting their operations and becoming an ISP, but don't want their members to lose in BEAD. 

Under BEAD and IIJA, or Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act guidance, these cooperatives can form partnerships between ISP operators and other stakeholders, such as other cooperatives and other infrastructure owners. 

Cooperatives applying alongside an ISP are not only competitive for BEAD, but can also create an additional revenue stream. Under the partnership agreement, a cooperative can use their existing infrastructure to charge the partner ISP a monthly fee. This fee can be assessed on a per passing or per subscriber can include maintenance costs for the right-of-way infrastructure. 


Finding a trustworthy partner 

Cooperatives should prioritize finding a trustworthy ISP partner that will allow for cooperatives to maintain the trust of its customers. 

The most trustworthy partners are cooperatives that have successfully begun operating as ISPs, such as United Fiber. These cooperatives possess an intimate understanding of structure and expectations of cooperatives, but also understand what is necessary to successfully deploy broadband. 

It’s important that both cooperatives are aligned on what is at stake in partnerships as they must last at least a decade, per BEAD guidelines. 

BEAD is a golden opportunity for cooperatives to bring broadband to their members – even if they don't want to be an ISP. It simply can’t afford to be missed. 


Want to learn more? 

Be sure to check out Hidden Truths of BEAD featuring Darren Farnan, general manager of United Fiber, and Jase Wilson, founder and CEO of Ready, on Friday, March 29 at 2:30 pm. 

There’s no time to waste.

Get Ready to Grow.