News from the Office of Broadband Development: Grant updates

Just wanted to share info from the Office of Broadband newsletter…

Get “up to speed” on applying for the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Grants; informational webinars/ conference calls to be held

Starting on June 23rd, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD) staff will host a series of webinar/toll-free conference calls to launch the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. We will introduce this year’s changes to the program, walk thru the application, review the scoring criteria, and answer any questions. Please join us on June 23rd or on any of the other dates below – information presented at each call will be the same, so you only need to choose one date to participate.

  • Thursday, June 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 30, 8 to 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 1 to 3 p.m.

To register, please send an email with your contact information (name, organization/community, address, email & phone #) to David.j.Thao@state.mn.us, or call David at 651-259-7442.  Please indicate which session you will attend. You must register to receive instructions on how to access the meeting and materials.

If you have questions about the grant program in general, please contact jane.leonard@state.mn.us or 651-259-7635.

Field Validation Underway on Broadband Grants projects

As part of its mission to manage Minnesota’s broadband infrastructure mapping effort, OBD has a contract with Connected Nation (CN) to conduct field validations to verify stated broadband coverage. In May, the CN validation trip included areas of broadband construction that were funded in part by the Border-to-Border broadband (B2B) grant program.

This photo of a vault (in Becker, MN, where the Palmer Wireless B2B grant project has concluded) is an example of the observations and testing conducted by the CN test engineers to identify and verify where new broadband construction has taken place.  At the Becker site, OBD staff were able to watch this aspect of mapping and verification take place.

Preliminary 2016 Grant Eligibility Map Now Online

An interactive map available through our website features a number of tools that can be used in many different ways. You can turn different data layers on and off and zoom in and out as you please. One of the tools on the map is the ability to determine if areas of a proposed broadband development project might be grant eligible under the criteria of the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

To help applicants prepare for the new grant round, the OBD made preliminary updates to the grant eligibility layer to match the new definitions of “served”, “underserved”, and “unserved”.

You can view the map by going to the website at http://map.connectmn.org/, then select “Maps/Data” on the top of the page, then click the “Access” tab, and check the box titled Preliminary 2016 Grant Eligibility Information. (See red circled areas on the map below as a guide to where the links noted above can be found.)

NOTE: The data displayed on this map is preliminary (current as of 2/28/2015). The eligibility map containing the new data will be released mid-July 2016, in time for the application period for the 2016 grant round. If you have any questions regarding this map, please contact Ryan Yetzer at ryan.yetzer@state.mn.us, or call him at 651-259-7614.

HUD Seeks Comment on Two Ways to Encourage Broadband Build Out

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is soliciting comments on two proposed rules that would improve broadband availability in affordable housing.

First, HUD is proposing that broadband infrastructure be installed at the time of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of multifamily rental housing that is funded or supported by HUD. The notice soliciting comments on this proposed rule is here.

Second, HUD is proposing that state and local governments include in their Consolidated Plans consideration of the need for broadband access for low- and moderate-income residents in the communities they serve. (Consolidated Plans serve as a framework for a local discussion on housing and community development priorities that align and focus funding from HUD’s block grant programs.)

Where access to broadband service is not currently available or is minimally available, consideration must be given to ways to bring broadband service to residents, including how HUD funds could be used to narrow the digital divide. To capture information on broadband in the Consolidated Plans, broadband providers and organizations engaged in narrowing the digital divide would have to be consulted during the plan preparation.

State and local government jurisdictions would also have to describe broadband access in low- and moderate-income occupied housing based on an analysis of data for its low- and moderate-income neighborhoods using the National Broadband Map or other available broadband data. The notice for this rule proposal is here.

Comments on both proposed rules are due July 18, 2016.

This entry was posted in MN, Policy, uncategorized by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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