Preliminary Analysis: First Batch of Stimulus Round 2 Awards

RUS, NTIA and the White House yesterday held a preliminary conference call to talk about today’s official announcement of the first batch of NOFA 2 (broadband stimulus) award winners.

No doubt the winners are popping champagne corks and started their 4th of July weekend fireworks early. The rest of the applicants and some of the rest of you probably want to get some sort of word on winners so crystal ball gazers can try to predict how the rest of this funding round will go.

I’ll try to help you out a little. Just last week I wrote an analysis of grants RUS awarded for NOFA 1 in case you want to get a little perspective before reviewing our first hint at what NOFA 2 might offer.

The conference call was a little light on detail, so tune in to catch the word from President Obama to get a broader picture of the program’s progress. But here are some highlights.

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Take It to the Bridge!

Morning folks,

Today’s hitting 10.5 in the Insanity Scale as NOFA 2 ambles toward the extended finish lines in one part of D.C. while the FCC preps for the rollout of the national broadband plan in another part of town. It’s so bad, I woke up three columns and two blog posts behind.

One (of many) good thing you can say about the Obama administration is that 14 months ago, broadband was a term maybe .5% of the population even heard used, let alone knew what the heck broadband is. After this week, as we take it to the bridge between NOFA 2 and national plan, even James Brown’s gonna come back and yell “Broadband? Jump back! Make me wanna kiss myself. Hit me!”

So how crazy is it around here? I’m so overwhelmed I’m going to turn over my space to Broadband Lawyer. As I mentioned in my last post, Broadband Lawyer is one of those do-gooders behind the mask who we don’t know, but know we love to have around. B L has some insights on the D.C. dance that’ll probably add to your gray hairs if you care about broadband stimulus or the national plan.

Hit me, B!

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Final Tips on Surviving Broadband Stimulus March to Madness

[This is really long. Print it out for the train ride home]

There are two large incumbents in the Cape Cod, MA area. OpenCape is the nonprofit-driven public/private partnership that just won a bunch of BTOP stimulus grant money to build a massive middle mile network. And here is a total random event that typifies one reason why they won despite the incumbents’ presence.

A few days ago in the outer Cape, a tree fell on an electrical cable that in turn started a fire involving a piece of telecom infrastructure. The fire took out all communications in five towns. Everything. There was no phone, Internet, 911, cable. Zip.

The Cape area is, for practical purposes, an island. A couple of bridges link it with the “mainland” across the canal on the Cape’s northwest side. One bridge carries the single communications pipe that both incumbents use to bring service to the area. In OpenCape’s vision, one day there ideally will be two big pipes plus the current one.

The primary reasons I’m bullish on OpenCape is their patience in planning, and their savvy in understanding that you plan first for the business success of the network, and then you worry about winning the grant application. Doing the reverse severely reduces your chances to succeed at either.

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Going for Google Broadband Gold (one NC community’s approach)

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Google recently turned the broadband world on its ear by announcing it’s going to set up fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks for a handful of lucky communities that will deliver 1 gigabit per second speeds. Dozens of cities large and small are lining up to apply.

I wanted to get a perspective on what’s motivating communities that survived NOFA 1 to endure a different frenzied race for broadband gold. Hunter Goosmann, General Manager of ERC Broadband in Western North Carolina, recently received their Opportunity to Re-Apply letter from NTIA and RUS. ERC’s not only going for Google gold, but also a chance at Round 2 funding (sleep must not be a valued commodity in that part of the world).

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NOFA 2 Lessons from a Round 1 Winner

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As everyone scrambles to make one last charge into broadband stimulus history – for better or worse – here’s a hopefully helpful post to give you at least a tiny edge in your pursuit of the gold.

I decided to profile stimulus grant winner Tad Deriso, President & CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative in Virginia, in part, because his group is the self-proclaimed “square peg in a round hole.” MBC is a co-op of private-sector-only companies, they didn’t form a public-private partnership, they’re a middle mile project not targeted to all the usual suspects and they challenged NTIA/RUS’ definition of underserved. Yet they still come out ahead.

Let’s see what we can learn from this slightly odd duck in the winner’s circle. Many of Tad’s comments pertain to the due diligence process, but understanding how they navigated this process offers some insights on where to tighten up your proposal.

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NOFA 2 – It Does Matter How You Say It

I listened to the NTIA/RUS workshop in Denver as these folks spelled out what makes for a good grant application, interpreted rules, etc. My ears perked up when they started on why projects got rejected. Specifically, when they explained that, for apps to get graded well in the Purpose (of the proposed network) category, “you have to be compelling, credible and clear.”

There have been some bitter and justifiable commentary about the first funding round, it’s lack of transparency in key areas and the lack of feedback throughout the process. I’ll add my 2 cents on this, but since the agencies gave some specific feedback, albeit in a general audience rather than to specific applicants, I want to jump on the key lessons.  

Months ago I wrote a column on how vital it is for you to write a really outstanding mission statement and executive summary. I believe readers thought I was loony giving them writing tips while they were trying to sort out engineering issues, 122-pages of hell and other seemingly more important issues.

Listen up folks! This is important. Today’s workshop spent significant time relating how reviewers rejected apps right off the bat – before due diligence – because of what was said, not said or how it was said. I point you later to a document with advice you probably want to heed. But first, a summary from the people who hold you future in their hands about what can kill your good, even great, idea for a network.

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Eliminate Weeks from Your NOFA 2 Prep Time!

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RidgeviewTel adds your BroadBand Scout data to their dBOSS Broadband Network Management Platform to:

  • aggregate the majority of necessary data NOFA 2 requires; 
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Successful.com facilitates the logistics between you and both companies, provides valuable analysis services if needed and ensures that everything is in order when you submit your application. You can purchase our services together or a la carte.

E-mail or call us today (510-536-4522) for more details. March 15 isn’t that far away.

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