There is a unique opportunity in the wireless industry as presented in the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning, Telemedicine and Broadband Program section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Act”) also commonly referred to as the “Broadband Stimulus Package.”
Specifically, $1 billion or over 35% of the $2.825 billion for Broadband Deployment Grants has been stipulated towards Wireless (see section 3102 of this Act). The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) will be carrying out the program designed to award grants to eligible entities for the non-recurring costs associated with the deployment of broadband infrastructure in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
The section of the Act relating to Wireless Deployment Grants, states the priorities as (i) wireless voice service in un-served areas and (ii) advanced wireless broadband service in underserved areas which are defined as those not representing, in the aggregate, more than 20 percent of the population or of the geographic area of such State. Additionally, there is extra consideration for proposals that can be accomplished in the near-term, or timeline of the Act.
There will be a number of one-off opportunities to receive grant funds to build and strengthen your business.
Applicants that have well conceived plans and resources will be given priority consideration. Furthermore, many of the program objectives and implementation processes are quite vague. It behooves prospective participants to engage and shape the process; the NTIA is open and willing to take feedback on your ideas.
That said, one way to increase the likelihood of receiving grant funds are creative, public-private partnerships where you can bring something to the table (i.e., spectrum). Many not-for-profit entities are in some cases better situated for selection over some for-profit only entities. This is driven by a number of the public service stipulations to the Act funds. Conversely these not-for-profits may not have the capabilities to complete the proposals because of their lack of technical ability and/or assets or vice versa. If you don’t already license, one example is to secure, purchase or lease options on available spectrum (see: SpecEx.com) in the intended rural service areas to “bring something to the table.” These organizations can include but are not limited to Cities, Counties, Public Safety, Educational and Healthcare institutions. Finally, by bringing your technical and operational know-how as a WISP, you would add tremendous value to the success of these organizations’ proposals and your business plans.
Public Meetings Schedule:
- March 16 (Washington, DC)
- March 17 (Las Vegas, NV)
- March 18 (Flagstaff, NM)
- March 19 (Washington, DC)
- March 23 (Washington, DC)
- March 24 (Washington, DC)
These meetings also will be streamed on the Internet (www.ntia.doc.gov).
- April-June 2009
- October-December 2009
- April-June 2010
It is likely that funding for a round will be completed before applications for the following round are submitted. Application deadlines will be announced in Notices of Availability of Funds that will be published in the Federal Register (www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/). (Source Rini Coran)