Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 29, 2014

MN Broadband Development Fund discussion in Baxter MN – is scalability an issue?

Yesterday I attended the regional meeting in Baxter, MN to discuss the Broadband Fund. Diane Wells from the Office of Broadband Development spoke to 20-25 people about the upcoming opportunity for funding.

The information shared was very similar to info from the webinar and other regional meeting – but I like to capture the questions and notes from each meeting

Timeline:
Late Sept 2014 – announce program details and open application process
Application process will be open for 30 days
Oct-Nov 2014 – 6 week application review process
Challenge window – first two weeks of review process
December – make awards

Attending the meeting in Baxter were economic developers, providers and elected officials. The economic developers said they need broadband and providers saying they want to learn more and/or they want to get their applications ready. The providers also had concerns about the need for solutions that were/are scalable to 100 Mpbs. People had very specific questions. Clearly this was not the first time folks had heard about the opportunity.

Cheryal Hills from Region Five Development Commission set the tone saying – We want to learning how to put together an application that gets funding and encourages the legislators to fund more in subsequent years.

Questions:

Is there a place to post comments?

Please call us or send us an email. If you question the data on your area – you can do that online.

What do eligible costs include?

We need to know that this is thought out and planned. We don’t need engineering plans in places.

How will scalable to 100 Mbp is measured and viewed?

Sign off by a professional engineer. And it’s building out. You need to indicate that the piece you are building can be used to provider 100 Mbps in the future.

Have you considered a letter of intent to prep for response?

No we’re trying to roll out the application

Are engineering drawings still required?

We need to be able to see that what you are planning to make sure that the cost is appropriate. We might not need to know where every dslam is – but we want to know how many.

We’re still working out scoring details but we plan to make that scoring information available.

Are there issues with prevailing wage?

DEED does have requirements – which vary my region. We’re still looking into it but our understanding is that it will be a requirement.

Have there been any discussions with balancing the state and federal funding?

We can’t make any commitments for an application due to FCC by Oct 14. They have a comment on rule making now – they are looking at their next iteration. We are tracking that and will likely file comments. But for this we just can’t get it to synch up.

Can federal funds be used to match?

Yes – but the problem is that you’ll need to bill it out. You need to demonstrate to them that your funding is in place by Oct 14.

Do you anticipate environmental review issues?

We are working to set up meetings with folks on that now. Right now

It’s the applicants responsibility to know if there are possible issues and we understand that means the project has be to some distance down the road.

Can you use debt as your match rather than cash or in-kind? (Can you borrow the money?) Maybe a reduced loan rather than a grant so that might help with prevailing wage issues.

Do you know the reporting requirements in regards to ownership?

Ownership should be stated in the application. We will only look at first 5 years (and commitment of service) for 5 years.

What is the process for drawing down funds?

At DEED the invoices are submitted and we pay 50% of costs for reimbursable costs.

Who will make the final decisions about the grants?

DEED makes recommendations to Commissioner Clark Sieben who signs the order. The understanding is that she generally defers to recommendations. There’s not a directive coming down saying where the money should go – in existing programs.

In the 50/50 match – do towers count at in-kind?

That would be difficult if it’s already paid for but maybe if there’s a lease paying for it. Match needs to be spent within time of grant program.

We asked Connect MN to prepare county maps by census blocks the areas that are serve and unserved – we have links on the website. Start by looking there and let us know ASAP if there are discrepancies.

October 1 the maps will be updated again. So the maps may change somewhat – so you’ll want to know what’s going on in your area.

Does shovel ready matter?

Only that we’re looking for timelines aspects – we need to know timeline and costs are realistic.

Will there be someone on the committee that will look to know make a judgment on scalability?

We may consult with someone on that. We are open to innovation.

The definition of terms will need to be fleshed out to include of scalability to 100 Mbps.

What does $5 million mean to a telecom company?

It’s a small project. We have 600 square miles. We have $46 million invested today. And the scalability means some people without access today – are not eligible for these funds. It would make sense to look at the recent rural experiments for some innovative ideas.


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