The Remaining Stimulus Rounds Have Been Consolidated, But Your Options For Funding Have Not (Robb Henshaw, Proxim Wireless)
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The Remaining Stimulus Rounds Have Been Consolidated, But Your Options For Funding Have Not (Robb Henshaw, Proxim Wireless)

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The broadband stimulus funding saga continues, with an interesting plot twist introduced last week. On November 10, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Commerce Department’s National ...

The broadband stimulus funding saga continues, with an interesting plot twist introduced last week. On November 10, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that they were “streamlining” the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s broadband grant and loan programs by awarding the remaining funding in just one more round, instead of two rounds.

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    The Remaining Stimulus Rounds Have Been Consolidated, But Your Options For Funding Have Not (Robb Henshaw, Proxim Wireless) The Remaining Stimulus Rounds Have Been Consolidated, But Your Options For Funding Have Not (Robb Henshaw, Proxim Wireless) Document Transcript

    • “The Remaining Stimulus Rounds Have Been Consolidated, But Your Options for Funding Have Not” By Robb Henshaw, Global Director of Marketing & Communications, Proxim Wireless The broadband stimulus funding saga continues, with an interesting plot twist introduced last week. On November 10, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that they were “streamlining” the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s broadband grant and loan programs by awarding the remaining funding in just one more round, instead of two rounds. The RUS and NTIA claim that the goal of this consolidation is to “increase efficiency and better accommodate applicants”, thus helping them to disseminate the stimulus funds sooner and with better results. While any effort to help get the stimulus funds into the hands of WISPs and other service providers that will help deliver broadband to under-served areas sooner should be applauded, many fear that this consolidation will hurt their chances of securing funding. This fear is based on the prospect that a consolidated final round of funding will mean a) less time to prepare their applications, and b) more competition due to the perception that this is the final opportunity for broadband funding. But just because the RUS and NTIA have consolidated the final “broadband stimulus” funding rounds into a single round does NOT mean that there is any less of an opportunity for funding – nor does it mean that this is the ONLY remaining option for funding. It is important to remember
    • that – while the broadband stimulus funds are significant and are worthy of being pursued – they are not the only game in town when it comes to funding your broadband networks. Where We Are Today Back in August, the RUS and NTIA extended the original application deadline by a week to give more organizations a change to apply for the $4 billion that was to be awarded in the first round. Even with the extension, though, many WISPs, service providers and operators still struggled to pull together the extensive applications and meet all the requirements necessary to apply. As anyone who has reviewed the application process for securing stimulus funds knows, the process is quite lengthy and requires a good deal of resources to complete. And given the relatively short period of time between when applications were open and the deadline, it was no wonder that many organizations had difficulty pulling together all of the information, network designs, approvals/certifications, etc. required in order to apply on time. Despite the challenges many organizations had, over 2,200 organizations did manage to submit applications – which proved to be an overwhelming amount. In total, the 2,200 or so applications asked for over $28 billion of funding, of which there is only $4 billion to distribute in the first round. As a result, the RUS and NTIA had to delay the awarding of funds, and are still reviewing all of the applications. They have set a goal of awarding the first round funding in December 2009, and then distributing the funds in February of 2010. What’s The Next Step? On November 10, the RUS and NTIA announced their intention to consolidate the final two rounds of funding into just one round. This means that the final $3.2 billion of broadband stimulus funds will all be distributed in one round instead of two. This was done as a reaction to the delay in the awarding of the first rounds of funds, as a way to ensure that the final two rounds are distributed in a more timely manner. As part of the consolidation announcement, the RUS and NTIA also issued an RFI seeking comment from the public on how to best administer the second (and final) round of funding for the programs in order to improve the applicant experience and maximize the ability of the programs to meet Recovery Act objectives. This is actually a very significant action, as it gives every organization that has feedback on the application process to provide their comments in hopes that this feedback will help make the process better moving forward. Whether an organization completed the application process or gave up after realizing that they did not have the resources necessary to complete the intensive process – both can provide valuable feedback that will help make the application for the final round more effective and efficient. Regardless of how the second/final round of stimulus funding plays out, it is important to keep in mind that this is not the only opportunity to receive funding for your broadband networks. Even if you are not awarded any of the $4 billion first round and $3.2 billion second round funds, there are still a lot of other resources for securing grant money for wireless broadband. Even Though the Stimulus Process is Now Shorter, It’s Still a Marathon – Not a Race
    • There are two programs that make up the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funding, and those are the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). The NTIA is expected to distribute up to $1.6 billion in the first round of the BTOP program, and the RUS is expected to distribute up to $2.4 billion in the first round of the BIP program. If both organizations distribute the maximum in this first round, that will equal a total of $4 billion in Round One funding. That leaves at least an additional $3.2 billion to be distributed during the final consolidated round – and more if the full amount is not distributed in Round One. All of the $7.2 billion in stimulus funding must be distributed by September 30, 2010 (just over a year from now), so the deadline for the final round of funding will likely not be too far out. Granted, now that they have issued the RFP to modify the application process, there is likely more time than the first round applicants have. Even though it’s tough to know what the revised application process will look like, it is still highly advisable for organizations that want to get a head start on the final round of funding to take advantage of the lull in between the first deadline’s passing and the announcement of the next deadline. Looking at the current application, many of the requirements will likely remain the same, so even though the new process may be streamlined it would be wise to begin preparing for a process that requires the same amount of detail and research as the first round did. Now, if your organization began preparing an application for Round One and determined that you just didn’t have the resources to complete it, you should know that there are a bevy of organizations out there offering third-party services to help you get ready. Whether you need help with the technical writing, the network design and feasibility testing, or even just help securing the NTIA-required professional engineer stamp (PE stamp), there are organizations out there that can either help guide you through, or complete the entire application on your behalf – depending on your needs. Remember, Stimulus Funding is Only Part of the Story While the BTOP and BIP stimulus funding opportunities are excellent, it is also important for organizations to realize that those programs are NOT the only funding programs on the block. In fact, before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was ever signed, there were a large deal of programs established with the specific purpose of proliferating broadband to under-served areas. Below is an overview of just a few of the additional opportunities that organizations can (and should) pursue, whether in place of or in addition to their stimulus funding applications. USDA Funding for Rural Areas The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of the key providers of funding for rural broadband projects. There are hundreds of grants available to enable projects ranging from SCADA applications, transportation initiatives, and broadband extension programs. For a complete list of the existing USDA grants available, please visit this site. Once you’ve identified the reference number for the grants that may be applicable, visit www.usda.gov for more information on the individual grants and how to apply. For a list of 2009 USDA grant money available and to download the grant toolkits, please visit this USDA site (which will likely be updated to include 2010 information in December or early January).
    • Rural Development Community Connect Program Also offered through the USDA, the Rural Development Community Connect program is dedicated to providing funding to extend broadband services to areas that are currently not served. Today, more than 20 million Americans in rural areas still have no option for broadband connectivity, often due to the high cost of running fiber to these remote locations. At a fraction of what traditional wired telecom networks would cost, broadband wireless networks are often able to be completely funded by federal grants from the USDA. For one example of a rural community that took matters into their own hands and secured funding from the USDA to bring wireless broadband to their town, please see this article. To apply for a Rural Development Community Connect grant, you must first register in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) site, which can be found here. After registering at the CCR, you can then apply for a grant online at http://www.grants.gov/. Community Programs and Facilities Grants Community Programs and Facilities provide grants to assist in the development of essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. Grants are authorized on a graduated scale. Applicants located in small communities with low populations and low incomes will receive a higher percentage of grants. Grants are available to public entities such as municipalities, counties, and special-purpose districts, as well as non-profit corporations and tribal governments. For more information on how to apply, please visit this USDA Rural Development site. Homeland Security Grants The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is another major provider of funds for broadband wireless networks, as these networks are often key components for the delivery of critical security applications, such as wireless video surveillance. Regardless of the whether you’re trying to secure your city, your transportation infrastructure (like bridges, roads, public transportation, etc.), a government building, ports, borders and more – the Department of Homeland Security has a wide range of grants available. To get started, please visit this FEMA site to identify the grant that may be the best for your deployment. At the bottom of this page you will find links to the instructions and forms you need to apply for these grants. The Grant Seeker’s Guide to the Galaxy Regardless of which grants you pursue, I recommend you start at a simple site called “The Grant Seeker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. This site has a ton of links and resources to not only help you find the grants that are right for you and your organization, but it also includes links to many presentations and tutorials on how to write the best, most effective grant proposal possible to ensure that you can secure the funding you need. You can also download a more comprehensive list of grants, funding opportunities and resources by visiting the following site and downloading the free white paper, entitled “Government Grants Resource Guide”. So remember – just because the Round One stimulus deadline has passed and the second and third rounds are being consolidated does NOT mean that there is no hope to receive funding for your broadband wireless network. There are a lot of options out there for any organization that is willing to plan ahead and put the time and resources required into the application process. And even if your organization is resource constrained, there are plenty of services out there
    • available to help you prepare your applications in time. But don’t wait – as soon as the RUS And NTIA receive feedback from the public and streamline the application process, the next round of deadlines will come and go before you know it. So the earlier you begin to prepare, the better off you’ll be. Robb Henshaw is the Global Director of Marketing & Communications at Proxim Wireless (http://proxim.com ), a manufacturer of end-to- end broadband wireless systems, where he oversees the company's marketing and communications efforts. For the last 8 years he has been dedicated to helping develop the wireless industry, with expertise in technologies ranging from enterprise WLANs, to carrier- grade wireless backhaul, to WiMAX and point-to-multipoint broadband wireless access (BWA) solutions.
    • CORPORATE INFO GoingWiMax.com. One of a kind. GoingWimax.com (www.goingwimax.com was founded in 2007 and has established itself as the www.goingwimax.com) premier website in the industry for “Everything WiMax”. The company’s unique selling proposition has allowed it to distinguish itself from its competitors by leveraging into a wide variety of leading s social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, Youtube, and Tumblr. We provide our readers with the , latest technology developments in the industry. GoingWiMax.com is everywhere you are. Our management has over 20 years of experience in the wireless sector, with a track record in successfully promoting wireless companies. Follow us Twitter : http://twitter.com/goingwimax Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/user/GoingWiMax Facebook Group : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Going-Wimax/161221755798 Wimax/161221755798 Slideshare : http://www.slideshare.net/goingwimax . Contact us By E-Mail: For more information, general matters and career inquiries: info@goingwimax.com For content corrections, and content contributions: editor@goingwimax.com For advertising quotes: ad@goingiwmax.com By Mail: By Telephone: GoingWimax.com - 7th Floor -- 1120 Avenue of the Americas (212) 993 – 5899 Ext.: 2005 New York, NY 10036