A PYMNTS Company

Ten Key Issues for Broadband Network Operating Agreements

 |  May 1, 2023

By: Sean A. Stokes, Casey Lide & James Baller 

The deployment of affordable broadband can be challenging, but broadband partnerships have emerged as a viable option in many parts of the country, and in some cases, they may be the only feasible option. Recognizing the potential of broadband partnerships, Congress and several states have sought to encourage their use to hasten broadband deployment, adoption, and use. This is evident in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (“BEAD”) program provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”), which allocates $42.5 billion to broadband funding and shows a preference for broadband partnerships.

One crucial element of many broadband partnerships is the creation of a network operating agreement (“NOA”) between the entity that funds or owns the network and the broadband provider who will build, maintain, and operate the network on a wholesale or retail basis. In this blog post, we outline ten critical issues that an NOA should address.


Broadband partnerships enable each participating party to leverage their unique capabilities to achieve the overarching goals of a broadband initiative. For example, local governments, municipal utilities, and electric cooperatives may have access to broadband funding or critical infrastructure, but they may not be inclined or allowed to provide commercial broadband services directly. On the other hand, commercial service providers have the expertise to manage, maintain, and operate a broadband network but may not want to invest the capital required to construct the network. A partnership between these entities can leverage each partner’s strengths and preferences…