ARRA BTOP Round Two: NOFA notes

Last Friday the NTIA/RUS announced $4.8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and loans to expand broadband access and adoption in America and unveiled the NOFA.

There are administrative changes noted in their Fact Sheet:

There are two separate NOFAs this time. So you can’t file a joint BTOP/BIP application. Apparently, “Eliminating this option will also help NTIA review applications in a timely manner.” (Only the BTOP NOFA is available now.)

When it comes to infrastructure projects, the new top priority is “comprehensive communities” projects, which means middle mile broadband and connecting anchor institutions. Also, if you are focusing on anchor institutions you don’t need to reach un- or underserved communities. (Though you get Lucky Strike bonus points if you do.)

They are trying to streamline the online application. And it sounds as if they are trying to simplify the first hurdle to weed out applications more quickly. (I’m reading between the lines here but I have to think that’s the goal.)

On to the BTOP NOFA… I am reading the version posted on the NTIA web site. I’m going to try to pull out or rephrase the parts that I think are most interesting. I’ll add pages numbers where I can. The goal is to give a Reader’s Digest version for some folks or backup reading for the lucky few who will also be combing through the details.

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

BTOP provides grants for deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of the United States, enhancing broadband capacity at public computer centers, and promoting sustainable broadband adoption projects. (pg1)

Dates: All applications due March 15, 2010, at 5:00 pm (EDT). Get details: http://www.broadbandusa.gov or apply online https://applyonline.broadbandusa.gov. (pg2) Funds will be awarded by September 30, 2010. (pg 5) Applicants have two years to complete project (pg 34)

The ARRA identifies five overall purposes: to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery; to assist those most impacted by the current economic recession; to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health; to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and to stabilize state and local government budgets. (pg 4)

Round Two Rules

Applicants are permitted to apply to one or more of the project categories. (pg 7)

To make it into this round applicants need (pg 9):

  1. To be eligible entities, Eligibile entities include (pg 31):
    a. States, local governments, or any agency, subdivision, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof;
    b. The District of Columbia;
    c. A territory or possession of the United States;
    d. An Indian tribe (as defined in Section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. § 450b));
    e. A native Hawaiian organization;
    f. A non-profit foundation, a non-profit corporation, a non-profit institution, or a non-profit association;
    g. Other non-profit entities;
    h. For-profit corporations;
    i. Limited liability companies; and
    j. Cooperative or mutual organizations.
  2. To have fully completed application
  3. To have matching funds – awardees under BTOP are required by statute to provide matching funds of at least 20 percent toward the total eligible costs of the project unless the Assistant Secretary grants a waiver. (pg 32)

The hope is that removing budget reasonableness and technical feasibility factors, required in Round One, will streamline the selection process. These will be considered at later stages of the process.

There are 3 categories in the new BTOP structure (pg8):

  1. Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) – $2.35 billion in CCI funds will focus on Middle Mile broadband infrastructure projects that offer new or substantially upgraded connections to community anchor institutions, especially community colleges(pg8) Expected funding request (per applicant) $5 million – $150 million (pg 30)Note: NTIA strongly recommends that CCI applicants that are currently RUS loan or grant recipients as well as any CCI applicant whose project will include a Last Mile service area that is at least 75 percent rural apply to BIP for funding (not BTOP). (pg 16)

    CCI priority criteria (n order) are (pg 13):

    1. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure with a commitment to offer new or substantially upgraded service to community anchor institutions.
    2. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure and incorporate a public-private partnership among government, non-profit and for-profit entities, and other key community stakeholders, particularly those that have expressed a demand or indicated a need for access or improved access to broadband service;
    3. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure with the intent to bolster growth in economically distressed areas;
    4. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure with a commitment to serve community colleges that have expressed a demand or indicated a need for access or improved access to broadband service;
    5. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure with a commitment to serve public safety entities that have expressed a demand or indicated a need for access or improved access to broadband service;
    6. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure that includes (i) a Last Mile infrastructure component in unserved or underserved areas; or (ii) commitments or non-binding letters of intent from one or more Last Mile broadband service providers. For Last Mile infrastructure components in rural areas, however, the additional costs of the Last Mile component used to offer service to residential consumers and non-community anchor institutions may not exceed more than 20 percent of the total eligible costs of the project; and
    7. projects that will deploy Middle Mile broadband infrastructure and propose to contribute a non-federal cost match that equals or exceeds 30 percent of the total eligible costs of the project.
  2. Public Computer Centers (PCC) – $150 million in PCC funds will help expand public access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at entities that permit the public to use these computing centers, such as community colleges and public libraries(pg8) Expected funding request (per applicant) $500,000 – $15 million (pg 30)
  3. Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) – $100 million in SBA funds will fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand, including projects focused on providing broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment, or support, particularly among vulnerable population groups that traditionally have underutilized broadband technology. (pg8) Expected funding request (per applicant) $500,000 – $15 million (pg 30)

Section 6001 of the Recovery Act establishes a national broadband service development and expansion program to promote five core purposes (pg 11):

  1.  To provide access to broadband service to consumers residing in unserved areas of the country;
  2.  To provide improved access to broadband service to consumers residing in underserved areas of the country;
  3. To provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment, and support to: (i) schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, community colleges and other institutions of higher learning, and other community support organizations; (ii) organizations and agencies that provide outreach, access, equipment, and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband services by vulnerable populations (e.g., low-income, unemployed, aged); or (iii) job-creating strategic facilities located in state- or federally-designated economic development zones;
  4. To improve access to, and use of, broadband service by public safety agencies; and
  5. To stimulate the demand for broadband, economic growth, and job creation

Small Print Requirements:

  • Must prove that federal funding is required to implement project (pg 34)
  • Must offer broadband as defined as providing two-way data transmission with advertised speeds of at least 768 kilobits per second (kbps) downstream and at least 200 kbps upstream to end users, or providing sufficient capacity in a Middle Mile project to support the provision of broadband service to end users. (pg 23)
  • Nondiscrimination & Interconnection (pg 35) – exclusively private networks are still out
  • Last mile coverage (pg 37)
  • Funding Restrictions (pg 40)
  • Use of Program Income (pg 46)

Changes in the Scoring Process:

The changes in scoring all seem to intend to speed up the selection process. There is the 3-fold requirement for entry (eligibility, full application, matching); two reviewers are required, not three. They are requiring fewer attachments. They will still be looking for input from the Governors and Tribal entities (pg 19). Applicants may be asked to provide more information.

I think they’ve done a good job of outlining the scoring system (starting around page 55).

Want more? Try checking out one of the regional, free workshops. It looks as if the February 4 workshop in South Dakota and February 5 workshop in Michigan are closest to Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Funding, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

1 thought on “ARRA BTOP Round Two: NOFA notes

  1. Pingback: ARRA BIP Round Two: NOFA notes « Blandin on Broadband

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