A while back I started to wonder what if anything will come of the Round One unfunded ARRA applications. So I contacted everyone who had an unfunded project in Minnesota. My survey was hardly scientific or stringent but I thought it might be interesting to report in.
I found 93 unfunded projects. Of those, 27 were projects that centered only or primarily in Minnesota, a few covered a couple of states and the rest were primarily national projects. I heard back from almost a third of the folks I contacted. I asked just four question encouraging people to say as much or as little as they wanted:
- Was your application for an existing plan or project or did the ARRA funding spur you to create a plan?
- Did you apply for Round Two Funding?
- Do you currently have a plan for moving forward regardless of ARRA funding?
Here’s what I heard or found out:
Was your application for an existing plan or project or did the ARRA funding spur you to create a plan?
About a third of the folks who got back to me indicated that their projects would have been used to significantly expand or extend an existing project. For many people that expansion meant going into new areas. For a few folks it meant a chance to expedite long term plans – I think that was especially true for existing service providers.
Very few folks seems to developed a project out of the blue – but with the quick application turnaround and just the ominous nature of any federal application I think that makes sense.
Did you apply for Round Two Funding?
Almost 70 of the 93 applicants did not reapply. (I was able to check that with the online database of applications so there might be some false negatives if folks applied under a different name. I had checked into this a couple of weeks ago too to find out that there were fewer applicants and more money on the offer in Round Two. ) Some applicants felt that they no longer qualified – such as Hiawatha Broadband; they felt that some of the requirements conflicted with previously written contracts; others felt that their geographic location no longer qualified.
Many of the folks who reapplied pared down the scope of their projects. Either they included fewer states or fewer technologies. Recognizing that for many applicants the ARRA represented an opportunity for growth I think this paring down probably brought some folks closer to their pre-ARRA plans. For some folks that may have been a good call, for others it may be a lost (or slowed down) opportunity.
A few folks seemed to be less than pleased with the funding process. Someone alluded to spending 1500 hours on the applications; others just said straight out that they had experienced frustration. For other folks I think the ARRA funds were an opportunity to think big. I suspect that those who had worked with federal applications in the past may have had a different attitude going in.
Do you currently have a plan for moving forward regardless of ARRA funding?
The response rate on this question is even more nebulous than the previous questions. About 25 applicants reapplied for funding. About a dozen said they were definitely moving forward regardless, we’ve posted news on at least two in the last month: TTM and Keyon and seen other stories posted elsewhere.