Experts in broadband grant programs at Fiber Connect on June 13, 2022, spoke to broadband service providers putting applications together for funds to deploy infrastructure and state digital equity plans.
In a session on “Making a Compelling State Grant Application,” the panelists addressed how to take advantage of programs called for in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which. Combined with other federal programs, more than $100 billion will be available for broadband programs, panelists said.
A common hurdle for service providers is working with state broadband offices that may not be fully functioning. Many states are “scrambling,” said Lori Adams, senior director of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, to acquire expertise from a labor pool that is running dry.
The scale of projects is daunting, Adams continued, and some states are building from nothing.
“States have a tremendous task ahead of them,” added Christopher Mitchell, director of the Municipal Networks program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “It is going to be a grinding period for them. The states that are prepared for this – the ones that have been with this for several years – are not prepared for this.”
Therefore, it is essential that service providers have patience and make the process easy for the state offices, said the panel.
The first step for a provider is to determine what program is best for it, thinking about its capabilities, strengths, and limitations.
In preparing applications for state, always go to those state broadband offices with a plan, said postgres Dunne, director of funding and regulatory affairs for FiberRise, an engineering consultant. That way, they will be “more apt to receive what you are trying to share with them.” Applications stand out when they meet all requirements, answer all questions, and are complete.
“Make it easy on yourself by making it easy on [the states]” for everything in your application, added Dunne.
Finally, Adams added that applicants should come to states with already-established partnerships with municipalities to give the application “extra points.” States are already looking for local partnerships and engagement with providers.