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BroadbandCensus.com Transcript of NTIA Mapping Workshop

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Editor’s Note: The following is an UNOFFICIAL advance transcript/summary of the NTIA’s Broadband Mapping Online Workshop. The transcription was made by Drew Clark, Editor of BroadbandCensus.com, and is being made available as a special, time-sensitive benefit to paid subscribers of BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report. We will provide a link to the official NTIA transcript when it is available. To purchase your subscription to BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report, please visit http://broadbandbreakfast.com/?/register/Free-Trial.

DISCLAIMER: This transcription was based upon simultaneous participation in the conference call, and NOT upon an audio recording. Therefore, it is possible that there are errors in the transcription portions of this transcript/summary. If you identify any errors, please e-mail drew@broadbandcensus.com, and they will be corrected.

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration held a workshop, via webinar, on Friday, July 24, from 1 p.m. ET to 2:45 p.m. The two NTIA officials on the call, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Program Director, State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program, and Anne Neville, focused on the nuts and bolts of the $240 available for broadband data and mapping. And they answered dozens of questions about the program.

NTIA’s Broadband Mapping Online Workshop
Friday, July 24, 1 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. ET

Officials: Edward (“Smitty”) Smith, Program Director, State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program; and Anne Neville, NTIA

Smith or Nevile:

We head up the NTIA’s National Broadband Mapping Program. If you have questions about the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, we will not be answering any questions on BTOP during this call. Please visit Broadbandusa.gov for further information.

We will also be providing a transcript of this call on NTIA’s web site.

The statutory authority for [the broadband mapping program comes from] the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which was passed unanimously [in October 2008].

[They refer to] Section 6001(1) of the ARRA, and to the state broadband data and development program included in the BDIA.

The statutory authority comes from two sources. [The NTIA must] develop and maintain, and to post by February 17, 2011, [a national broadband map.] This originates in BDIA.

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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial]The critical part [is that] up to $240 million [will be awarded.]

[The target amounts are between $1.9 million and $3.8 million per state for mapping grants, plus up to $500,000 for planning-related awards.] Planning-related awards are contingent on participating in the mapping program.

[Applicants must] contribute at least 20 percent. This can be in the form of in-kind contribution. The purpose [of the ARRA] is in part stimulus.

Unlike the BTOP, [the 20 percent match] it is not waive-able [under] BDIA.

Applications are due on August 14, 11:59 p.m., and must be submitted electronically through http://grants.gov.

By September 15, we will begin announcing awards. Within 30 days, [documents of some sort will be available.] Within 60 days, NTIA does expect compliance from successful applicants.

The critical data in terms of states is February 1, 2010: the date by which states are expected to provide a substantially complete data set by the applicant. November 1, 2009, is a preferential date. States that are unable to collect a substantially complete data set by November 1 should propose an alternative. We understand that states are in varying degrees of readiness on broadband mapping.

March 1, 2010 is the date by which data is to be complete. February 17, 2011, is the statutory mandated date for the public posting [of the interactive web site by NTIA].

The broadband mapping award is for five years, and your budget should include this. The matching is for 20 percent over the course of five years.

We are going to focus for a minute on eligible entities. Eligible entities must meet a two-pronged test: they must be either an agency of the state, or a municipality, or a non-profit independent of the state, and in which a state is a member on behalf of the state; and must be designated by the state [and the single entity officially responsible for broadband mapping].

Whether the [entity] is a public utility, a chief information official, a municipality or a non-profit organization, the state must designate that organization as the designee for those grant funds.

[Smitty and Anne asked for questions to be submitted to broadbandmapping@ntia.doc.gov.]

Comprehensive and targeting data will inform NTIA grants. Each state will provide structured data to NTIA and FCC on the following:

•    Availability of broadband service at the address level, geo-referenced;
•    Advertised speeds;
•    And expected actual upstream and downstream speeds.

[Some additional items were mentioned here.]

[The end-goal is to create a] publicly-searchable broadband map and database with:

•    Geographic areas;
•    Technologies;
•    Speeds at which broadband is available;
•    Broadband service availability at public schools, libraries, hospitals, colleges, universities and all public buildings owned or leased by agencies or instrumentalities of the states or the municipality.

In addition to these data points, we are going to try to combine information from other sources, including:

•    Socio-economic information
•    Demographic information
•    Political boundaries

The states have to protect the sensitivity of data. In this process, they have to enter into non-disclosure agreements. However, we have set certain restrictions on what these NDAs may do or may include. They cannot restrict a grant recipient from providing all data collected to NTIA. It is important that we receive all of this data in the interest of transparency, openness. [The NDAs] cannot [limit] NTIA’s use, including the FCC’s [use, of the data].

[For the purpose of confidentiality,] trade secrets are defined as identifying the location, type and technical specification of infrastructure owned, leased or used [by a provider], identifying the average revenue per user; and explicitly identifying the broadband service areas or locations.

All data that we are collecting under this program, we are going to seek to protect. Ultimately, we are still subject to Freedom of Information Act’s rules. We will protect it [the data] only except as required by law.

A few minutes on the application process itself.

Each application must address five areas:

1.    Data [to be collected]
2.    Feasibility [of the proposal]
3.    Expedient data collection
4.    Repeated data updating
5.    Planning and collaboration

We want to make sure it is clear is that while some of these categories may be weighted, each category has to be fulfilled, and fulfilled in a feasible way.

When we are talking about data, we are talking about comprehensive and verifiable broadband data: how a state is going to collect [the data], how the data will be verified, and looking very carefully at the applicants’ proposed method for collecting the data. [Reference to footnote 26.]

When we looking at the data, we are also going to be looking at accessibility. How the data is accessible to, and clearly presented and easily understood [by others.] Also, on confidentiality, how, for the information that needs to be confidential… how the state proposes to protect the data.

Under the project feasibility, we are going to look at the budget. Clearly, budgets are going to differ based on population density. Budgets are going to differ on whether they have done broadband mapping before. A budget will also depend, while the NoFA allows and encourages, and most states have a strong interest in developing a broadband map, that would impact the budget as well.

We will also be looking at the 20 percent match, and will be discussing that a little bit more in the webinar, and specific guidelines for matting contribution.

[Further discussion on applicants, capacity, knowledge and experience.] And, if the applicant is subcontracting, subgranting, how have they [been] made secure in the idea that they are going to be able to collect this data.

We are going to look at the timeline. February 1, 2010, is the most important date to us is. States are required to have a substantiality complete data set, because we want to understand what is your plan, because this isn’t one thing [meaning that the broadband data will serve other broadband purpose].

The broadband planning grants. The broadband planning grants, first, are only available to those territories that also apply for a mapping grant. The description should be in the narrative section under planning and collaboration. So, how you are going to use the broadband planning grant should be in the planning and collaboration [section of the application.] The budget piece and the spreadsheet should be separated out [between mapping and planning grants]. States have up to $500,000 [for planning grants].

What is available for broadband planning grants? They are laid out in the NoFA. Footnote 6 – it lists them out – it would be the identification… [and additional information here], including the creation and facilitation of local telecommunications planning teams.

A number of states have asked questions about how these categories fall into planning. [Further discussion about other issues, including the barriers to adoption.] Broadband planning is a primary purpose. States for which 501(c)(3) are applying for the grants, we do, in the narrative, want to clearly understand how, [in] the collaboration and coordination [portion], and the extent to which state will be involved.

Smitty:

Mechanics. What happens after your application is received? [He describes a three-part review: an eligibility check, a technical review, and a programmatic review.]

Eligibility check. [This is] to screen applications for eligibility factors. Is it an eligible applicant (i.e., a state, a municipality, a non-profit entity, an independent agency) and designated by the state. Is it capable of meeting the matching requirement over the course of 5 years, of 20 percent, and it is a match in which we will encourage you to seek in-kind contributions. Also, whether you have agreed to the confidentiality requirements, whether you have agreed and demonstrated that you can obtain the information in the NoFA. If you do not demonstrate that you will be obtaining this information, then, unfortunately [the application will not be approved]. [Applicants that say they will be able to obtain] these points, but not these points [of data]: you will not be eligible under the program.

Technical review. [This will] look at the application criteria, and provide them to the program staff. They will sign a non-disclosure, and a conflict of interest form. The role that these peer and expert reviewers play: they will provide us with the score [for the application].
The programmatic review. Depending on the strength of the application, we will reach out and work with you guys to refine and further develop each application. We are going to be working very closely with each applicant to make sure they conform with what we see [in the NoFA]. This is a collaborative process. After that, the associate administrator will approve the [applications] and the selecting official – the assistant secretary [or Larry Strickland, the head of NTIA], and the awards will then be issued.

[They discuss for several minutes the few mechanics of downloading the application for broadband data and mapping funding.]

Questions & Answers

1.    Will there be additional [NoFAs on broadband mapping]?

No, we don’t anticipate additional grant opportunities. We are expecting them to propose grants over five years. We are expecting that this is going to be it.

2.    If a state is choosing to procure a vendor, must the state award the grant by the date to NTIA?

No. The states are, and have issued RFP
You do not need to have the contract awarded to the vendor by that time. To be fundable, you need to know specifically what you are asking vendors: Scope of work,
Cost of the bid.

You may know who your individual bidders are, and that will be helpful.

3.    May a state apply for less than the $1.9, or more than the $3.8?

A state may apply for less, or more than $3.8. This is what we expect, and research as to what it will cost. Budgets evaluated.

In proposing your budget, you should understand that (a) a grant over five years.
Bi-annual updates.

There are going to be things like – maintenance of the state map – it is going to be a case-by-case assessment of how much it is going to cost

4.    Can they subcontract to multiple [entities]?

We want to see a budget that is efficient, and makes sense, and will get the data collected in the least possible time.

5.    We want to get the written approval, on page 15?

If you want to start the data gathering now – give us a call, or send us an e-mail.

6.    The URL for the PowerPoint
http://ntia.doc.gov
That will be put up soon, but it is not available at this moment.

7.    A state that has an opportunity for substantial matching funds
Whether those funds have to be approved by the time we submit the grant?

No. You have to provide information about the source.

8.    If the 20 percent match can be demonstrated over the full 5 year span.
Can it be provided evenly, even though the bulk is that [is for work at the beginning?]

The Department of Commerce requires that the match be provided on a dollar-for-dollar drawdown.

If the costs more heaviliy, you are going to have to match 20 percent earlier on.

It is a dollar-for-dollar.
If this is an issue, we can work with you

9.    NoFA – underserved – as census blocks; less than 40 percent. Can individual census block within can more than 40 percnet?
We are looking for an average across the service area
We are looking for an average across the service area

10.    Agencies or departments, that independent organizations should be working with – change from state to state?
It is going to change state for state
The state designates the recipient
It may be a 501-c-3
You should reach out to your state governor to find out if designate

11.    If a state will not apply, what will NTIA do?

If a state does not apply, NTIA will collect the data to comply with the BDIA

12.    The size of the grant?
There are no specified weights in this regard.

What is appropriate, given the work that is before you?

13.    Confidential
Searchable by address
Carriers are able to provide data
Speed

This is what has been done in Canada

We do expect that providers are going to want to do that.

We are going to be looking for information that is going to be helpful for consumers.

14.    State – with a contract, and not comply with the NoFA?

This is going to depend on state procurement laws.
There is nothing the prevents an amendment

Or re-issuance of an RFP.

15.    Question: whether vendor discounts count as part of the matching requirement?

They may not be applied, but donations can be applies toward the 20 percent match.
That is something to take into account, if a discount on a number of licenses, or a different hourly rate
If it is a donation — are very familiar with the OMB circulars

16.    Another question from states: Can the match include investments in data that is crucial?

An in-kind contribution can be included, if appropriately includes..
Time dedicated to the project, not the time it was obtained.

17.    If providers having difficulty getting ARPU data, will it be complete enough?

Good Q, and feeds into other Questions.

If a provider refuses to provide some or all of the data
Work together
There are a number of states that are coming together, or starting to come together to work on a regional basis
There are a lot of different ways to get the data.
States that have the ability to legally compel this data, that is there.
But doesn’t mean that other options are off the table

18.    What is the rest of the money?

The statute says, not that 350 to the states
Up to $350 million – pursuant to the development and maintenance

There are costs, substantial costs
Operation and development of the national map
Furthermore, we are obligated, to obligate all $4.7 billion, including BTOP and mapping, September 30, 2010

If we don’t spend it in the mapping, then it will be rolled into other grants
Infrastructure
Public compute
Sustainable option

19.    It is a real question – it is nice to have an easy one. Already has the mapping in the detail. If no state, shouldn’t every state apply for a mapping grant?

We hope that every state will apply for a mapping grant.

20.    Subscriber info, to determine penetration?

The focus of this program, and the focus of this mandate, is on availability

However, we recognize that penetration/adoption is as important, as having a full understand on the broadband landscape.

We are going to be working very closely with the FCC to integrate data they have, to integrate that into the national BB map — so that it also display information about adoption.

Those same adoption – will be similarly overlayed.

21.    What list of BB providers in a state, will be used to determine, if the required list of BB providers will be achieved.
How folks should go out determining who their BB providers are?

The state should create that list of BB providers in the state, to collect that

22. How they should do that?

We would encourage states that have done mapping exercises before, to share their methodology with states
Working with the trade associations
Lists of members
Working with regional groups
Rural and remote areas.
Looking at regulatory authority in the states, if there are licensed

23.    Can a state revoke?

A state law question.
The commerce regulations govern grant monies.

24.    A timing question:

A lot of people thinking hard about timing, and that is good.

60 days after September 15 data – the award Docs. How are they supposed to submit by November 1 – it is no later than 60 days.

How states adjust

25.    What are the ways that states can protect confidential information?

There are some ways that states can protect
Whether the states can protect it
You know whether/what your sunshine laws are.
That is certainly an option to keep internally.

Some of those have statutes on the book – if they are the designated entity. State law.

Many are looking to use a contractor who will be collecting and holding some of that data for you. That is certainly an option that you can use
Regardless of the method used to protect the confidentially at the state level….
All of the information has to be delivered to NTIA>

States have brought forward
What they (contractors) get to see…

You get to see what is going to work, and what is going to be the best solution for the sate

You will be providing all the information collected under the program to NTIA.

26.    Privacy and individual information.
Individual information – PIN is not being collected by this program.

When we say, we are looking for address level, searchable informant – not what an individual is subscribing, just what is available

Electricity is available
Don’t know the usage.

It is a question of what can be obtained by a person, not what is actually being subscribed

Not focused on PIN.

27.    About the planning grant:

28.    What can be done if a provider is willing or unable to provide it in the format requested by NTIA?
There is a good distinction.
The NoFA requires that the state provide it in the format requested to NTIA

That doesn’t mean that what a BB provider provides to you, has to be in the form requested.

Certain states that have done broadband mapping before have “cleaned” the data.

They have gone back in, and determined what the addresses are.

29.    We have also gotten the question – whether the grant would allow people to pay providers to put the data in the right format.

In the vast majority – it is in this format, or easy. In exceptional cases, this could be done on a case-by-case basis. Making sure we are clear that you can get it one way, and it is the duty to provide into NTIA.

30.    A request to the states – how to partner appropriately? States partnering, sharing best practices, using collective influence, and collective power to work together with providers, or to convince providers to participate
Could we publish a list of potential applicants, or people?

(If you are a state – there are vendors, there are other folks.)

We will be reaching out to folks, where we already know who the contact person is. Getting in touch.

31.    The searchable nature of the BB availability data. Searchable by address, for households, for schools, and public buildings?

Searchable by address
For households, schools, etc. Anywhere that we have an address listing
It is going to capture the whole gamut.

Anne: Some of these are quite complicated, but will get back in touch with you, for states applying for funds.

Smitty: A of the questions will end up in the FAQ

32.    Will we make the Form 477, and can they see the form 477, including the states
We are working with the FCC. Keep paying attention to the FAQ. We will give more guidance on the site.

33.    Told by a contractor – provider data provided, can be used as a match.
We would be very concerned about using provider data as a match. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, we believe that for the majority of providers, it is already in this form.

Would not require a significant amount of work.

It is not to say it is excluded, and will need to be on a case-by-case basis. A match, and essentially used, as paying for provider data.

34.    The next question: advertise, and why no provisions, in infrastructure, for actual speed test??
On the infrastructure grant side – because these data has not been collected. The BTOP team wanted to make sure as user-friendly as possible

The best methodology was advertised.

If we believe that provider are acting [falsely], we will take action
It is illegal to lie to the federal government

I recognize that this question was related to BTOP, but it can also relate to the BB mapping

Speed tests would be/could be something that would be used as part of a state’s verification methods

We know that some of you have raised privacy concerns.

That is something that speed tests are something they can look at when deciding how they are going to verifying some of this data
35.    Can grant funds be used to pay for additional data collection, beyond
Light R for urbanized areas?

It’s up to you. Additional costs — don’t compromise the quality of what we are requiring you to provide.

Doesn’t otherwise compromise
Schedule
And other things

Yes, you can go above and beyond.
We understand that states will be laboratories for innovation.

36.    What the basic criteria are for bb?
The definition we are using for BB – the provision of two-way data provision, with advertising of at least 768 down, and at least 200 kbps upstream, for end-users

This is the floor
We recognize that the range of BB services extends way above this

37.    A largely rural?

Provisions
No provisions for a master address file.

If there is not a commercial option – not a master address file, and not a viable, give us a call, and let’s talk through that, and understand a bit more specifically, about the concerns in your state, and we will work with you on that.

38.    You need to go to grants.gov
You cannot file the BTOP

39.    Pre-award costs, and the costs of unserved versus underserved
A description – of what areas are unserved, and underserved.

What areas the state believes to be.
The provision of this is optional.
It is to give the state level applicants t

40.    A 501 c 3 – responsibility?
That will not pertain to most of you.
Most states are in house, or contracting out to a vendor or a series of vendors.

If your state is contracting out to a 501(c)(3) – we really want to see how the state will continue its active role in both the mapping, and the planning group.

Congress recognized the role of states in the provisions of bb data.

And states have been leaders in this across the country.

We expect that states will continue to play the leadership role.
We want them to know who the key people

That should all be included in the application narrative

Smitty:
Substantial state involvement will increase

Given the inherently public policy nature of bb planning, the states are absolutely the most appropriate entity to be involved.

The states will be the most appropriate.

Will be taken into consideration
We are going to be looking for very strong justifications for how that 501-c-3 designation or independent commission is going to be working to integrate the state into the process.

Smitty:
We are committed to working with each of the states and territories to achieve success.

We will address continued [questions], as they continue to flow through the web site

Anne:
At this point, we have successfully reached out to most states

Talking to most of you on the phone today

If we haven’t been in touch with your state, it is because we are not sure who is heading up efforts in your state.
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Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband's impact, and the universal service fund @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media, including LinkedIN, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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