Connect with us

Funding

Members of Congress, Industry and Non-Profit Stakeholders React to NTIA Funding Rules

Though most groups issued their support, others voiced reservations.

Published

on

Frank Pallone was one of a handful of legislators who issued support for the NTIA NOFOs.

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2022 – Supporters of the bipartisan infrastructure measure promoting broadband deployment praised the release of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s long-awaited funding rules.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Angus King, I-Maine, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, lauded the announcement of the Notice of Funding Opportunity; all three senators were cosponsors of the BRIDGE Act, which has inspired components of the BEAD program.

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone, D-N.J., issued a statement with Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn.

Commerce Department’s NTIA Releases Details for Funds Distributed Under IIJA

“We are especially pleased that the Internet for All program promotes strong labor standards and reflects the priorities that we and other Democratic Committee members advocated for earlier this year,” they said, “NTIA’s announcement prioritizes affordability, future-proof networks, digital inclusion, and competition, all while bringing local communities together around these transformational broadband projects.

On Friday, the NTIA released three NOFOs – one for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program ($42.5 billion), one for the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program ($1 billion), and one for the State Digital Equity Act programs ($1.5 billion).

Some in private industry offered vague or tepid reactions

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation supported the effort behind the NOFOs and supported several measures outlined, including prioritizing unserved areas, providing a process to challenge awards, and including mechanisms to prevent duplicate funding between programs, though its statement said, “The devil will be in the details.”

NTIA Says Primary Awards For Middle Mile Grants to Fall Between $5 Million and $100 Million

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association Chairman Todd Harpest stated that the organization was “pleased that the NOFO requires States to engage in transparent and open-competitive funding procedures, including challenge processes.” He also supported the “technology neutral approach” charted by the NTIA; while the NOFOs referred to specific speed designations and speed requirements, they did require or reject any technology wholesale.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, broadly support the announced NOFOs in a release, though it didn’t to enumerate specific items it supported.

ACA Connects CEO Matthew Polka said that the NTIA has “[taken] a major step toward [closing the digital divide],” though he did not elaborate on any specific aspects of the NOFOs that his organizations found agreeable. Similarly, US Telecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter also supported the NOFOs without any specific references to their contents.

Concerns raised by Free State Foundation

Not all receptions were so positive, however. TheFree State Foundation’s Seth Cooper, director of policy studies, said that the NOFOs “[raised] some concerns.”

Cooper argued that even though unserved areas will be prioritized when awards are considered, “much of the Notice gives the appearance of putting unserved and underserved locations on equal footing.”

Commerce Secretary Raimondo Heads to North Carolina to Tout Infrastructure Bill Investments

“Going forward, it will be important for NTIA to emphasize that unserved locations are to be given first priority for receiving grant awards for broadband deployment,” he added in his statement. “Otherwise, BEAD Program dollars may end up going to so-called ‘underserved’ locations wherein most Americans already have access to broadband Internet services with 80 Mbps download speeds.”

The NOFOs regard any regions with speeds between 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload and 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload as “underserved” areas, he said.

While Cooper supported the NTIA’s decision not to impose open access or net neutrality requirements, he said that “the Notice includes a misguided recommendation that states ought to favor open access wholesale last-mile broadband services in setting their criteria for awarding grants,” concluding, “Open access requirements do not and would not help unserved Americans gain access to broadband. It is essential that states keep focused on connecting the truly unserved and not bog down the process or the program’s ultimate success by pursuing open access requirements.”

Want to know more about this game-changing document, and the powerful tools it brings to U.S. last mile broadband? Visit Broadband.Money‘s tools and resources, including four themes to watch for in the BEAD NOFO.

Funding

NTIA Officials Urge Use of Agency Resources for Digital Equity Planning

Agency officials outlined helpful material for states looking to develop digital equity plans.

Published

on

Screenshot of Katarina Smiley, digital equity advisor at the NTIA

WASHINGTON, January 31, 2023 – National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials are urging states to take advantage of available resources when developing digital equity plans. 

The NTIA provides general technical assistance resources that the Commerce Department agency said both stakeholders and states will find helpful, including a list of best practices for digital inclusion activities, recommendations for preparing planning requirements, and a plan template. 

Accessing federal resources will set states on a “great path forward” to promote digital equity, said Richelle Crotty, technical assistance advisor for digital equity at an NTIA event Wednesday. 

Because stakeholder involvement is a crucial element to the program, the NTIA provides specific guidance on how to conduct accessible meetings and discuss keys to successful coalition operations.  

Stakeholder involvement cannot be overemphasized, stressed Katarina Smiley, digital equity advisor at NTIA. Communicate what the divide looks like in your community, share digital inclusion models and advocate for community research, she urged state leaders. 

The BEAD-DE Alignment Guide can help states align program requirements and coordinate activities across the NTIA’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program and the Digital Equity Program. 

As part of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the $2.5 billion Digital Equity Program created three sub-programs to “ensure that all communities can access and use affordable, reliable high-speed Internet.” 

The first program, which is currently underway, provides $60 million for states to develop digital equity plans. The subsequent steps include $1.44 billion for implementing plans and $1.25 billion toward digital equity and inclusion activities. 

Currently, all 50 states have been awarded Digital Equity Planning Grants upwards of $4 million. Plans are required to identify the key barriers to digital equity faced by its population, measurable objectives for promoting broadband technology, steps to collaborate with key stakeholders, and a digital equity needs assessment. 

Continue Reading

Funding

Mayors Urged to Get Moving on State Conversations for Federal Broadband Funding

Time is running out to have cities’ voices heard at state broadband roundtables.

Published

on

Photo of Scott Woods (left) and Jase Wilson

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2023 – Representatives from a company that helps internet service providers and local governments get federal broadband money urged mayors of cities across the country Wednesday to quickly get involved in the process by actively engaging their state broadband offices or get left behind.

Scott Woods and Jase Wilson, vice president for community engagement and strategic partnerships and CEO, respectively, at Ready.net told the 91st United States Conference of Mayors in Washington that time was running out to have their voices heard at state roundtables.

Woods noted that the current version of the Federal Communications Commission’s maps are “overstated,” meaning there are inaccuracies in it. But if cities don’t have a plan or don’t come to the state broadband offices and plead their case for better connectivity, they will be left out.

The pair asked the packed conference hall at the Capitol Hilton whether they had conversations with their state broadband offices, but the vast majority did not raise their hands.

“The opportunity is now,” Wilson urged, adding the company’s Broadband.money has created a site and a broadband audit allowing mayors to get them up to speed. Broadband.money is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which administers the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, has said that the accurate delivery of the money to connect the underconnected will be contingent on the readiness of the FCC map, which had a deadline to challenge its contents on January 13, 2023.

Each states is expected to be allocated at least $100 million by June 30, with many states receiving much, much more. After the June 30 kickoff, entities, including cities, can apply for a piece of the pie.

Continue Reading

Funding

Regulation, Reporting Requirements and Oversight Can Make a Difference in Grant Applications

Several documents will improve application competitiveness, said Paul Garnett of Vernonburg Group.

Published

on

Photo of Paul Garnett, CEO of the Vernonburg Group

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2023 – Regulation, reporting requirements, audits, and oversight can provide serious barriers to entities looking to receive funds from various federal broadband programs, said Vernonburg Group CEO Paul Garnett in a Thursday webinar hosted by wireless provider, Telrad.

These regulatory and financial barriers can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project, he said. It is essential that applicants prepare all necessary documentation to satisfy requirements well before applying to these programs, he continued, identifying several key barriers states may face.

Irrevocable letters of credit, a guarantee for payment which cannot be cancelled during some specified time period, provide risk mitigation for program administrators and are often a key “difference maker” in making an application more competitive, Garnett said.

Its importance was highlighted as several applicants to the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund won auctions for locations but were unable to qualify for funding due to not being able to raise irrevocable letters of credit, claimed Garnett.

Furthermore, he continued, audited financial statements spanning at least three years are often required for program applications. Regularly, applications will be rejected immediately when financial statements are omitted, he said.

Finally, although applicants may not anticipate a need, establishing lines of credit is an essential step to ensure that entities have the funding required for approved projects well in advance, said Garnett. He added that oftentimes, federal programs do not pay entities upfront but instead reimburse for expenses incurred.

Making Applications Simpler

The Vernonburg Group said it is working to make applications easier for entities by providing a simple visualization of basic mapping information in its free digital equity map released in December. Companies are able to easily create data visualizations and see correlation between national and local data sets, claimed its CEO.

The company works to help ISPs and state and local broadband program administrators identify locations eligible for funding by highlighting high scoring potential service areas on a heat map. It extracts availability, fixed broadband adoption, device ownership, and demographic statistics for any defined coverage area.

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending