How will your state broadband office make the most of the largest investment in broadband funding in a generation?
That’s the question facing states, territories, and Native American tribal governments (used interchangeably in this article from here on out) as the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) prepares to distribute $42.45 billion in broadband grant funding through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program for unserved and underserved communities.
States face an overwhelming amount of information with a tight deadline. The NTIA’s announcement of initial allocation funds is scheduled by June 30, 2023 and initial proposal submissions are due 180 days afterward. There's a lot of pressure to build a defensible plan for how to direct their broadband funding in compliance with the NTIA guidelines.
Ready Grant Optimizer from Ready.net is a next-generation solution to a very hard problem set states face. Ready Grant Optimizer puts you in control of your state’s criteria selection based on the priorities set by NTIA and allows you to uncover key insights.
Once states get their initial funding allocations from the NTIA, they are hardly finished with their tasks. In fact, in many ways, the hard work is just getting started: states must choose the final recipients of the funding — the organizations that will actually get the money to build out broadband — according to specific criteria from the NTIA outlined on pages 46-48 of this document and the entirety of this document.
Among the mandated criteria are that the initial 20% of grant funding a state receives must be distributed to areas “consisting of at least 80% unserved locations” and “in locations in which the percentage of individuals with a household income at or below 150% of the poverty line applicable to a family of the size involved.”
After that, it’s up to the states to decide which “subgrantees,” or grant recipients, get the remaining funds through a “fair, open, and competitive” application process that the state broadband office or other state-level government agency is in charge of organizing, hosting, running and maintaining.
Think about the popular singing contests on TV — The Voice, American Idol, and The Masked Singer — where judges must whittle down the best of a whole large group of qualified singers. Now multiply that by thousands or tens of thousands, and you have some idea of the challenge facing state broadband offices, who do not have nearly as many staffers or employees as a popular TV series. The state broadband subgrantee competition is a lot like this, except with internet service providers (ISPs) large and small instead of singers.
In this case, those ISPs may be non-traditional providers such as cooperatives and nonprofits, or even private companies.
The state will need to collect a range of information from them, including the organization name, the applicant, the origin, the status of the application, the date on which they applied, the amount of funding they are seeking, how much match funding they are bringing to the table (if any), and arguably most importantly, the actual service area they plan to build in. Among the documents that the state can collect are audited financial statements of publicly traded parent companies. And, state broadband offices must evaluate grant applicants’ compliance with fair labor practices.
Also, the states must describe the process in an initial proposal and final proposal documents filed to the NTIA, prioritizing unserved areas and ensuring coverage when all is said and done and the funds are all allocated.
Therefore, in order to effectively use its funding allocation in compliance with the NTIA and other federal reporting mandates, sate broadband offices must identify the many different locations in a state that are eligible for broadband funding — be it the unserved or underserved — and compare this to the subgrantee applications to find out which subgrantees will get the job done of connecting these areas.
It’s a difficult, demanding, highly detailed task that is very tough for states to even begin to approach, let alone get right. Fortunately, there is a solution from Ready.net: the Ready Grant Optimizer, part of Ready.net’s Grant Application Management Engine.
Using this and other Ready tools, states can deploy enterprise BOSS (Back Office Secret Sauce - a full business support system/operating support system) to help states manage their relationship with grant-seeking applicants directly through a simple, clean, powerful, easy-to-use cloud-based tool.
The Ready Grant Optimizer is a helpful tool that offers a one-stop-shop solution for not only managing your state’s subgrantee selection process, but is also part of the larger suite of tools Ready.net offers that together will enable your office to implement and manage your state’s entire comprehensive broadband plan, start-to-finish.
In particular, the Ready Grant Optimizer allows you to model target areas of broadband grants investment dollars with precision using dozens of data sets.
This tool follows both NTIA and FCC guidelines and is 100% compliant, but it is also configurable to your state’s policies and goals when it comes to broadband funding allocations.
By using the Ready Grant Optimizer, you can eliminate guesswork and politics and set the stage for objective management and evaluation of grant application submissions. Based on an algorithm that unifies the complex data needed to make subgrantee awards, the Ready Grant Optimizer enables state broadband offices the ability to easily share, validate, and defend their decisions.
You can view all of your grant applicants and applications in a single table view, click into each one to find out more information such as their organization, applicant name, where they filed the application, the status of their application, when they applied, the area they plan to serve, and much more. Then, you can cross reference this information with your state’s broadband service map on Ready.net’s mapping and data collection platform, which includes comprehensive speed test and demographic information, ensuring that you are evaluating the grant applicant with all of the information and context you need to make a decision to approve or deny their funding application.
It’s a built-from-scratch solution specifically designed and customized for state broadband offices to be able to run their entire grant application process from one fast, secure, easy-to-use tool. No matter the size of your broadband office staff and the mountain of demands facing you, the Ready Grant Optimizer can make your life easier.
This tool will help you publish your criteria and target maps with confidence, so you can unlock insights and achieve unparalleled visibility into the anatomy of plans that connect the most people to affordable, quality broadband.
The Ready Grant Optimizer offers Geospatial visualizations of potential project areas in your state, empowering you to identify, prioritize, and rank areas tailored to your state's vision to address broadband needs.
It can be easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis when it comes to broadband allocation. However, with the help of the Ready Grant Optimizer, you can overcome this challenge and surface your priorities. Don't leave it to chance - set your criteria and follow your state's guidelines and the federal guidelines to spotlight where best to focus. By using this tool, you can set yourself up for success and ensure that your broadband allocation will be effective and efficient.
Ready is a Public Benefit Corporation led by a team of computer scientists, data scientists and NTIA alums devoted to helping broadband professionals solve the digital divide.