Third-Party Consultants Can Coordinate Broadband Deployment, Say Panelists

Awardees of NTIA’s BIP recommend hiring third-party technical consultants.

Third-Party Consultants Can Coordinate Broadband Deployment, Say Panelists
Photo of Rebecca Mincey of Lumpkin County, Georgia

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2023 – Third-party technical consultants can help coordinate between state entities and providers in implementing federal grant funds, say awardees of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Infrastructure Program.

In February 2022, the NTIA awarded 13 grants totaling over $277 million as per its Broadband Infrastructure Program. The program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was designed to support broadband deployment in unserved areas, particularly in rural areas.

Awardees shared advice to states applying for future Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment funds at an Internet for All webinar celebrating the one-year anniversary of the program on Wednesday.

“Hire a third-party consultant early in the process,” advised Rebecca Mincey, executive director of development authority in Lumpkin County, Georgia. A third-party technical consultant can help verify engineering plans to make sure the plans meet grant and construction requirements and will provide additional accountability with providers, she said.

Having a consultant as a technical advisor right alongside the state and the provider has ensured that the deployment is a team effort, agreed Judge Joe Pat Covington of Scott County, Kentucky.

For these county governments, grant funds have “opened up the floodgates” for partnering with providers, continued Covington. Previously reluctant providers are now willing to partner with Scott County, he said.

Relationships are the key to success in all areas of broadband development, agreed the panelists.

Pole attachments are a common area of conflict and delay in broadband development. States can reduce delays by establishing a direct line of communication with utility partners and ensuring that utilities have what they need to process requests quickly, said Mincey.

Share specifics about the grant program and project requirements with pole owners, urged Covington. States should consider how they can streamline the process for utilities, he added.

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