The BIP (Broadband Initiatives Program) Satellite Program stems from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009, which has the aim of improving the financial economy in the United States and investing in citizens. The satellite program specifically sought to expand the areas of the nation that have access to high-speed Internet access, and is governed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While all companies meeting certain criteria were allowed to apply to provide service under this program, ultimately four companies were granted funds: Hughes Network, Wildblue Communications, EchoStar/Dish, and Spacenet, Inc.
BIP offers a greater infrastructure for Internet across the country, increasing the number of rural areas that have service. This not only increases the ability of people to engage in leisure Internet use, but also increases the ability of businesses and professionals to utilize computers and Internet programs. In total, $100 were doled out as a part of BIP, with Hughes Network getting the largest amount of money.
To be eligible to apply for money with the BIP Satellite Program, companies needed to meet certain qualifications. Namely, they had to agree to supply service to an area that is not within a city, town, or incorporated area with more than 20,000 people. The rural area also must not be adjacent to an urban are with a population of more than 50,000 people.
The funds given out for BIP must be used for specific purposes. Funds can be used for expenses that include construction of new facilities or improvements of existing facilities that provide broadband service, leasing costs for facilities required to provide broadband service, or other expenses that can’t exceed 5% of the total award. Miscellaneous expenses have to be pre-approved, ensuring that the most money possible goes towards actually providing service. The rules of the program state that the companies awarded with funds must give companies free installation to customers, have no upfront equipment costs, and give low subscription rates for at least one year.
Where to Get Service
Three of the companies awarded funds offer service in a limited number of states. Wildblue Communications has broadband service in 19 total states that include: AR, AZ, CA, CO, IA, LA, MN, MO, MT, ND, NV, OK, OR and SD. EchoStar offers Internet access in 25 states, including: AL, CT, GA, IN, KY, MA, MS, NC, NH, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, VT and WV. Spacenet, Inc. will only offer broadband service to rural customers in AK and HI. Only one of the companies, Hughes Network, has broadband service in all 50 states. This leaves some customers, such as those looking for satellite Internet in Wyoming, with only potential one option. The USDA offers a full list of states covered on their website: http://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov.
If you are living in a rural area that you believe has coverage by one of the awarded companies, the easiest way to find out is by going directly to the Internet provider’s website. By providing your exact location, you will be able to find out if you can access their new broadband service, or on which date you are expected to get service.
Jamie Staker runs a farm in Wyoming, but in his free time, he enjoys blogging about modern internet technology on various websites. His articles appear mainly on technology blogs.