Yesterday I tried to take in depth look at the ARRA BTOP Round Two NOFA. Today I’m going to try to take on the BIP Round Two.
The Baller Herbst Group posted a comparison of Round One and Round Two, which is worth reading. I haven’t seen a ton more on the NOFAs yet. I suspect that most of the people reading the entire documents are doing so with intent to apply, so they are busy enough without posting their two cents.
On to the BIP NOFA… I am reading the version posted on the Broadband Gov web site. Like yesterday, 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.
DATES: Applications deadline is March 15, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. ET. (The application for Satellite, Technical Assistance, and Rural Library Broadband Projects will be announced in a separate request for proposal in the Federal Register.) Electronic submissions will be available at http://www.broadbandusa.gov. (pg 1) Paper applications will be allowed for Technical Assistance and Rural Library Broadband (pg 2). All awards must be made and funding obligated by September 30, 2010. (pg 23)
Approximately $2,200,000,000 in funding has been set aside for funding opportunities under this NOFA. (pg 23)
Accordingly, the Recovery Act identifies five overall purposes: (1) to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery; (2) to assist those most impacted by the recession; (3) to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health; (4) to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and (5) to stabilize state and local government budgets. (pg 5)
In this Second Round of funding RUS has focused its efforts on rural economic development in addition to continuing to reach unserved rural areas. RUS has qualified for funding any rural area in which at least 50 percent of the premises in the area do not have access to broadband service at the rate of 5 Mbps (upstream and downstream combined). Service offerings must still be within proposed funded service areas which are at least 75 percent rural as required by the Recovery Act. (pg 8) RUS has moved to a standard award of 75/25 grant/loan combination; however applicants requesting a larger loan component will be awarded more points in the scoring system and may have a greater likelihood of being funded. (pg 8)
RUS will limit federal assistance to no more than $10,000 per premises passed, unless a waiver is requested from the Administrator. (pg 11)
Changes to the Process
The application will now be a one-step process (pg 11) and reporting no longer needs to be as granular as census blocks. (pg 12) Paper applications for Last & Middle Mile projects and no longer required. (pg 13) Some applications that are not initially may be able to update their application for reconsideration or they may accept recommendation from the NTIA. (pg 13)
- Last Mile Projects – Last Mile projects must predominantly provide broadband service directly to the premises or to end users. Only those applications whose proposed funded service area contains 75 percent or more rural areas, within which not more than 50 percent of the premises in the rural areas have High Speed Access will be considered for funding. (pg 19) RUS will concentrate on funding Last Mile projects. (pg 6) Up to $1,700,000,000 is available for loans or loan/grant combinations for Last Mile projects. (pg 23)
- Middle Mile Projects – RUS strongly encourages applications for Middle Mile projects from current RUS loan and grant recipients. Applicants must propose that at least 75 percent of the interconnection points be in rural areas with no more than 50 percent of the premises having High Speed Access. (pg 20) “RUS highly recommends that all other Middle Mile applicants consider applying to BTOP.” (pg 7) Up to $300,000,000 is available for loans or loan/grant combinations for Middle Mile projects. (pg 23)
- Satellite Projects – Applicants must propose to serve only unserved rural premises in any of the regions listed in Section IX.T of the NOFA. Applicants may propose to serve more than one region; however, Applicants must submit applications which are broken out for each region. Only one Applicant will be selected to serve a region. (pg 20) *More will be posted on these RFP later. Up to $100,000,000 is available for grants for Satellite projects, as well as any and all funds not obligated for Last Mile and Middle Mile projects (pg 23)
- Technical Assistance Grants – Awardees under the First Round NOFA or Applicants under this NOFA may submit a request for an additional grant for funding for the purpose of developing regional broadband development strategies in rural areas. Awardees will work in public/private partnerships to develop a USDA-approved regional plan to provide broadband service in rural areas that remain critically unserved. In addition, in order to foster cross collaboration with other related Federal programs. (pg 21) Grants for Technical Assistance will be made in an amount up to $200,000. (pg 22) *More will be posted on these RFP later. Up to $5,000,000 is available for grants for Rural Library Broadband and Technical Assistance projects (pg 23)
- Rural Library Broadband Grants – Awardees from the First Round NOFA or Applicants under this NOFA may submit a request for a grant to reimburse the associated costs for connecting any rural library in their proposed funded service area, being constructed, or to be constructed, with funding from an award from USDA’s Community Facilities program of the Rural Housing Service. (pg 22) *More will be posted on these RFP later. Up to $5,000,000 is available for grants for Rural Library Broadband and Technical Assistance projects (pg 23)
Eligibility (pg 24-25)
- Last Mile and Middle Mile Projects
The following entities are eligible to apply for assistance:
- States, local governments, or any agency, subdivision, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof;
- A territory or possession of the United States;
- An Indian tribe (as defined in section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. § 450b));
- A native Hawaiian organization;
- A non-profit foundation, a non-profit corporation, a non-profit institution, or a non-profit association;
- Other non-profit entities;
- For-profit corporations;
- Limited liability companies; and
- Cooperative or mutual organizations.
- Satellite Projects
- A satellite Internet Service Provider (ISP);
- A reseller of satellite ISP service;
- A distributor or dealer of satellite ISP service; and
- A consortium of a, b, or c above.
- Application Eligibility Factors for Last Mile and Middle Mile Projects
Not much posted, presumably to be answer in greater detail later
Small Print Requirements
- All Applicants much complete an application
- The project that will be completed in a timely fashion
- Must be technically feasible,
- Must be financial feasible
- Must commit to the Nondiscrimination and Interconnection Obligations (pg 26-28)
- Must have funding required (pg 29)
- Must not overlap with other RUS projects. That means for all applications, the existing service area of RUS borrowers in which they provide broadband service shall not be eligible. (pg 29)
- Funding Restrictions (pg 31)
You can see the application outline online starting about page 35. And you can see the scoring starting on page 42. I’m not sure how much the RUS adheres to the scoring they create – but I’ve been a grant reader for other federal agencies (not related to broadband) and I can tell you that the scoring system is the be all, end all. I recall proposals I loved that didn’t do a good job addressing the specific issues represented in the scoring; so even though I liked the projects, I couldn’t score them as highly as I wanted. Just a word to the wise – not that most of your would need it.