Win, lose or draw, the first round NTIA/RUS broadband stimulus fund applications are in. Word is getting out about who applied and who didn’t including who applied for funds to do Minnesota mapping.
Mike O’Connor wrote a post on Wednesday about Minnesota Departments of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Commerce recommending to the Governor that the State work with Connected Nation to pursue a grant to conduct a broadband map for the State of Minnesota with data that will be used to create a national broadband map. Connected Nation are the folks doing the current mapping for the State. This money would extend/expand on that work. Twelve other states and one territory are working with Connected Nation on their applications.
Here’s the quick take on the deal, partially gleaned from Mike’s post, Brent Legg at Connected Nation and Diane Wells at the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
The NTIA will provide “approximately $240 million in grants to assist states or their designees to develop state-specific data on the deployment levels and adoption rates of broadband services.” The NTIA seemed to be looking for a “single eligible entity in a State that has been designated by the State to receive a grant.” So state approval was important.
The folks at the State heard from two possible mappers – Connected Nation and the University of Minnesota. At this point I suspect local readers are saying – hey why didn’t they go with the U? All things being equal I buy local, especially if I have federal dollars to spend.
When CN approached the State they had a track record, a complete plan in place and the required 20 percent match. According to the letter of recommendation from the State, they have been “very satisfied” with CN’s work to meet the terms of the 2008 contract and the price paid. The funding from NTIA will allow the State to ask more questions, which will help get better maps. (Although the State wasn’t necessarily thrilled with all of the details as set out by the NTIA.) There will be a Steering committee to work with CN. The State and CN have a memorandum of understanding in place concerning the question of verifying availability and speeds
The University had a good idea but the plan was not complete. They were unable to specify staff members dedicated to the project. Their 20 percent match was less assured than CN’s. Without existing relationships with the providers, it seems optimistic to think that the U could meet the short deadlines required by the NTIA.
The old controversy is CN. People have extreme feelings about Connected Nation and have for a while. Steve Borsch outlines his concerns in a recent article; CN’s Brian Mefford has addressed concerns in a recent rebuttal of a Wall Street journal article, which I think is the basis of Steve B’s article – only Steve’s article is still online for free.
The new controversy is about how a mapper was selected in Minnesota. Should the State have consulted with the TF board? Did they consult with members offline? Does consulting with some members count? (CN is slated to speak at the next Task Force meeting. They were scheduled to speak earlier but as I recall they were asked to postpone while the TF was on the road.)
I’ve tried to present the facts. I’ll offer my own two cents and open this up to comments if others have an opinion.