Securing Your BEAD Award: A Guide for ISPs on Meeting Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program Cybersecurity Requirements
Imagine a future in which every American, regardless of location, has access to high-speed internet ― where the digital divide is a thing of the past and the opportunities the internet presents are available to all. This isn’t just a dream; it will soon be a reality due to the federal Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program.
The BEAD Program is set to empower broadband service providers to extend their reach across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. The goal is clear and ambitious: to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to every corner of the nation. With an unprecedented $42.45 billion, BEAD is more than an initiative; it’s a revolution in universal connectivity, poised to transform the nation’s digital landscape. As internet service providers stand on the brink of this transformative era, cybersecurity is a crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked.
In this guide, we delve into the critical cybersecurity requirements of the BEAD program, explaining why they’re not merely a checklist item but an excellent opportunity to fortify your network against the ever-rising tide of cyber threats. Read on to discover how securing your BEAD award isn’t just about expanding your reach; it’s about safeguarding the future of connectivity.
For ISPs, BEAD is a pivotal moment. The program offers them a unique opportunity to expand their service area, reach new customer bases, and enhance their network infrastructure. Moreover, it may be the last significant opportunity to receive government funding for expansive network growth; program administrators and government officials have clarified that the BEAD program intends to reach all remaining Americans without high-speed internet. This makes it crucial for ISPs to understand and meet all program requirements to receive their share of their state’s BEAD allocation successfully.
Among the many requirements, the federal government included in the BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity (the document state broadband offices will use to issue application requirements for ISPs) are two critical items related to cybersecurity that ISPs must meet and submit to the state broadband office to receive a BEAD award. Together, these requirements ensure that ISPs have assessed, identified, and remediated any vulnerabilities to cybersecurity threats in their organization and organizational IT supply chain:
- An operational (or ready to be operationalized) Cybersecurity Plan that adheres to NIST’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.
- A Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management Plan that meets NIST guidelines related to the security of your information technology supply chain.
While these may seem like just another task in a program with many requirements, ISPs should view these requirements as an opportunity to find and address security vulnerabilities in their organization and IT supply chain – gaps that could potentially compromise their network and result in huge losses. Cyberattacks increased by 38% in 2022 compared to 2021, and the average cost to organizations from a data breach reached $9.44 million per incident with both figures projected to increase in 2023 as the rate and complexity of cyberattacks increase.
Meeting BEAD’s cybersecurity requirements allows ISPs to protect their organization from cyberattacks and IT supply chain incidents proactively while ensuring success in receiving their share of their state’s BEAD allocation. AISN’s team of cybersecurity experts can help your ISP navigate these requirements, reach compliance to receive your BEAD award, and ultimately ensure that your network and your organization are protected against cyber threats. To get started, contact us to schedule a conversation!
Cole McAndrew is AISN’s Information Security Officer.