Tag: "grants"

Posted February 1, 2023 by Sean Gonsalves

AARP has announced it is accepting applications for its seventh annual Community Challenge grant program, a funding source for nonprofit organizations and governmental entities to apply for “quick-action” projects that make communities more livable and have the potential to seed long-term change. 

Previous grant awards were given for a wide-range of initiatives, including a 2021 project that provided Wi-Fi, smart home devices, a computer lab and digital literacy programming for older adults in a public housing development in Jersey City, NJ; and a 2019 program to help bridge the digital divide and social isolation by funding a hotspot lending program that distributed 60 hotspot devices.

This year, two new grant award categories have been established in addition to the Flagship Grants awarded in previous years. The two new grant categories are Capacity-Building Microgrants and Demonstration Grants.

Applications are due by March 15. Grant award winners will be announced on June 28 for projects that must be completed by November 30.

Flagship Grants

The Flagship Grants range between several hundred dollars for smaller, short-term activities to tens of thousands of dollars for larger projects with an average grant amount of $11,900. 

Those grants are for projects that benefit residents, especially citizens 50 and older. They can include a variety of initiatives – ranging from the creation of “vibrant public places that improve open spaces, parks and access to other amenities,” support for affordable housing options, enhancement of community resilience “through investments that improve disaster management, preparedness and mitigation” to delivering transportation and mobility options that “increase connectivity, walkability, bikeability, and access to public and private transit;” as well as projects that aim to increase digital inclusion projects that expand access to high-speed Internet and develop digital literacy skills.

New Funding Opportunities 

The new Capacity-Building Micgrogrants will...

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Posted January 17, 2023 by Christopher Mitchell

Last Friday was a major milestone in the process of moving $42.5 billion from the federal government to states to distribute mostly to rural areas to build new, modern Internet access networks. January 13th marked the deadline for error corrections (called challenges) to the official national map that will be used to determine how much each state will get. 

As an organization that has worked in nearly all 50 states over the past 20 years on policies to improve Internet access, we spent the last few weeks struggling to understand what was actually at stake and wondering if we were alone in being confused about the process. Despite the stakes, almost no expert we talked to actually understood which challenges – if any – would fix errors in the map data before it was used to allocate the largest single federal broadband investment in history. 

Update: On January 13th, Joan Engebretson confirmed in Telecompetitor that the location challenges deadline was October 30, 2022, and not Jan 13, 2023.

This article will explore what is going wrong with the distribution of that $42.5 billion, the mapping process, and continued failure of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to show competence in the broadband arena. And it offers ways to fix these important problems as every jurisdiction from Puerto Rico to Hawaii feels overwhelmed by the challenge. 

The $42.5 billion guarantees each state $100 million and a large additional sum calculated proportionally based on the number of locations in each state that don’t have adequate high-speed Internet service. States that already made significant investments in better rural networks and made strides toward fast universal Internet access for all households - like Massachusetts - will likely not receive much more than $100 million, while extremely large states with many high-cost rural residents - like Texas and California - will receive billions. 

NTIA is tasked with administering and distributing the funds and must use FCC data to determine...

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Posted December 8, 2022 by Christine Parker

In November, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) unveiled its new Broadband Availability Map. Along with a new map style, the FCC also introduced a challenge process that allows everyone – from governments to citizens – the ability to highlight false claims of availability and ensure that every home and business location is accounted for in the map.

With good reason, many are confused about the information shown in the map, the challenge process, and why we should care about helping the FCC make corrections. 

While we too are frustrated about the cost and subsequent quality of this map, we believe it is important to contribute to improving this map to enable an equitable allocation of the $42 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds to states next year.

Step-By-Step Guide

In an effort to provide a better understanding of the map itself, and the challenge process, we created a short series of instructional videos and a click-through guide. Through the videos we provide:

  • An overview of the map itself, important features to be aware of, and how to navigate the map interface.
  • Walk-through of both the location and availability challenge process (The deadline for submitting availability challenges is Jan. 13, 2023).

The challenge guide is in pdf format and was designed to allow users to click links to navigate to the resources they need. Similar to information shared in the videos (below), this resource includes instructions for both the location and availability challenges, as well as more detailed information about valid reasons for submitting those challenges.

We also include a timeline of the availability challenge process, and links to FCC resources for those interested in submitting a bulk challenge. You can find the challenge guide...

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Posted November 28, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Tamarah Holmes, Director at the Office of Broadband at Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Virginia is ahead of the game compared to a lot of the states in terms of its planning and proactive work with providers to achieve universal access in historically unserved and underserved areas. Tamarah talks with Christopher about how the state has done this, from working directly with providers on regional approaches, to layering grants to address high-cost areas, to mapmaking and database design.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted October 5, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Residents of East Carroll Parish are “cautiously celebrating” the decision by Louisiana’s Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity to uphold a $4 million GUMBO grant to bring fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Internet service to over 2,500 households in one of the most poorly connected parts of the state.

As we reported last month, the grant had been challenged by the regional monopoly cable provider Sparklight after the state had awarded the grant to Conexon. The challenge, which claimed the cable company already serves 2,856 homes in the region, brought the project to a grinding halt on the same day residents were set to launch a sign-up-for-service event.

News that the challenge was rejected brought a sigh of relief to members of Delta Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and community-based organizations in the Louisiana Delta pushing for better broadband. Coalition members had formed an Internet task force during the Covid-19 crisis as families struggled to get access to reliable broadband.

The community and elected officials were elated when Conexon, an independent rural Internet provider, was intially awarded the grant in July – only to be frustrated when they learned of Sparklight’s challenge. Concerned that Sparklight (formerly known as Cable One) was simply gaming the state’s grant challenge process in an effort to stave off competition, community members initiated a letter-writing campaign to bring light to the challenge and pressure state officials to resolve the challenge as soon as possible.

Sparklight 'Failed to Carry Its Burden of Proof'

In its letter to Sparklight explaining why the challenge was being rejected, Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity (OBDC) Executive Director Veneeth Iyengar noted that “because Sparklight has provided such a limited explanation of its position, it is difficult to discern and analyze its argument.”

Iyengar goes on to write:

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Posted September 6, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Welcome to another installment of In Our View, where from time to time, we use this space to share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape and take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.

As its ongoing work to revamp the agency’s notoriously inaccurate broadband coverage maps continues, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week the opening of a window for states, local and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities to challenge the service data submitted by providers over the summer.

At the end of June, as FCC chairwoman Jessica Ronsenworcel noted, the FCC “opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services.” 

The key word here is “precisely” because the truth is: no one really knows precisely where broadband is, or is not, available. And with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding being spent to deploy high-speed Internet infrastructure, accurate mapping data is essential for targeting where those funds would be best allocated in each state and U.S. territory.

Historically, the FCC relied on self-reported submissions of Internet service providers (ISPs) for information on which locations they serve and what speeds are available at those addresses. However, in practice, that meant the FCC maps could declare an entire census block to be “served” by a broadband provider if that provider claimed the ability to serve just one home in the entire block; thereby overcounting how many households have access to broadband.

The Broadband DATA Act was passed to fix that glaring problem by requiring the FCC to use a more refined methodology to verify if the data submitted by ISPs is accurate.

To that end, the FCC will now rely on something called the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (BSLF), which will combine a...

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Posted September 2, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced earlier this week that Louisiana will be the first state in the nation to receive federal grant planning funds to help states prepare for the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure and digital skills training under the Biden Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

Enabled by last year's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the $2.9 million heading to the Pelican State is from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity Act (DEA) – a development Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said was a signal that “the Internet for All initiative is on track and on schedule.”

Over the coming weeks, every state and territory will have funding in hand as they begin to build grant-making capacity, assess their unique needs, and engage with diverse stakeholders to make sure that no one is left behind. My thanks go to Governor Edwards and his team; Louisiana was among the first to sign onto Internet for All and to apply for funding, and I know they’re ready to get to work for the people of Louisiana.  

According to NTIA’s press announcement, $2 million of the planning funds being allocated to Louisiana come from the BEAD program and will help the state:

  • Identify unserved and underserved locations
  • Support outreach to diverse stakeholders across the state
  • Train employees administering the state’s broadband program
  • Assist with asset mapping to track broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities
  • Survey unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption 
  • Ramp up efforts to support local coordination at the local and regional levels 

The other $900,000 will come from the Digital Equity Act, also passed as part of IIJA. That money will fund Louisiana’s development of a statewide Digital Equity Plan; hire a Digital Equity/Inclusion Specialist to create and execute the state’s digital equity strategy; foster partnerships with a consortium of higher education...

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Posted August 29, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Louisiana’s broadband deployment grant program, GUMBO (Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities), was announced with great fanfare by Gov. John Bel Edwards and several state lawmakers when earlier this summer they visited Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish, the first community in the state to be the beneficiaries of the $130 million grant program.

Broadband-hungry residents and businesses were licking their chops at the prospect of finally getting access to reliable high-speed Internet service in an area that had long been underserved. But what’s leaving a bad taste in the mouths of East Carroll Parish residents is an eleventh-hour challenge to the grant award by the regional cable company.

Conexon was awarded a $4 million grant to bring fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service to over 2,500 households in the rural northeast part of the state. But the monopoly cable provider who serves the area – Sparklight (formerly known as Cable One) – filed a challenge to the grant claiming the cable company already serves 2,856 homes there, even though, as noted by The Advocate, that is nearly 1,000 more homes than what U.S. Census data reports in the project area.

The challenge has brought the project to a grinding halt on the day network construction was slated to begin. The delay has community residents and some state lawmakers frustrated as the state’s Division of Administration tries to figure out if the challenge has any real merit.

As reported by The Advocate:

Generally, GUMBO regulations allow a seven-day window to protest after an award is announced. Protestors have 10 days to provide data supporting their challenge. Bid winners then have 10 days to respond and the Division of Administration has 20 days to decide. Either side can appeal to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne. Once...

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Posted August 23, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Although disappointing for advocates of local Internet choice weary of monopoly providers working to stifle competition, what we are seeing coming out of Montana’s state broadband grant program, Connect MT, shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Last week we learned that the state’s Department of Administration had recommended that nearly half of the Connect MT funding – $126 million – be awarded to Charter Communications, which has been aggressively lobbying Montana legislators (and funding campaigns in opposition to community broadband proposals in other states).

It did not go unnoticed by Montana Free Press deputy editor Eric Dietrich who recently reported that the recommended award to Charter “has plowed into rocky ground as (the state) considers a list of recommended projects this month.”

‘Not Perfect by Any Means’

The story raises questions about the state’s ranking system for proposed projects and notes that the lion’s share of grant money being recommended for Charter “has drawn the ire of smaller, Montana-based companies that want more support for their own networks.”

In hearings this month, Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles, the committee’s vice-chair, described the $258 million program as a learning experience for the state government, which hasn’t previously managed a large broadband program. The scoring system the department used to rank applications, she said at an Aug. 2 meeting, ‘is not perfect by any means.’

‘This is a first-in-kind program for the state of Montana, so there’s definitely some lessons learned,’ Giles said.

Giles and committee chair Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, have also said the state will have the chance to fine-tune its awards process and fund additional projects as it works through additional federal broadband money it expects to receive through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

After passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature established advisory committees to make recommendations to the governor about how the state’s Rescue Plan funds should be spent on infrastructure, including broadband.

...

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