PSC-W Broaband Grants Application Period Open

08/18/2014 Uncategorized by j.smith

The Public Service Commission is pleased to announce it is now accepting applications for Broadband Expansion Grants for the FY 2015 grant cycle.  The application instructions may be found here.

Applications are due and must be uploaded to the PSC’s ERF system by Thursday, October 13, 2014, at 4:00 pm Central time.  Clarifying questions regarding the application process or content should be addressed to the State Broadband Office, as provided in Section 1.5 of the application instructions, must be filed no later than September 25, 2014.

Additional comments below based upon observation of the FY 2014 grant cycle decision process from Dennis Klaila, PSC (these observations are offered as advice only, and are not binding upon the Commission.  The purpose of these comments is to assist applicants to submit an application with better focus or better attention to details that proved to be important the during the last grant cycle):

Weight given to priority factors.  During the initial evaluation, a screening panel evaluated the applications for eligibility, and prepared a suggested ranking of the applications.  The panel evaluation is not binding upon the Commission.  It is merely a useful starting point for the Commission when it makes its final decision.  In the last grant cycle, the Commission considered the panel evaluation as well as the information provided in the applications, and ranked the applications giving due weight to the factors the Commission judged to be of most importance.

Matching funds.  A significant financial commitment or other investment by the applicant(s) was an important deciding factor in the FY 14 grant cycle.

Unserved areas.  Service to areas that did not have broadband service at all was found to be of more importance than projects offering to serve areas with at least one other broadband provider.

Overlap with existing service.  A related concern with service to underserved areas was the extent to which the project proposed to overlap existing broadband services.  This was an issue of particular importance with applications from wireless providers.  Some applications proposed to serve a large wireless footprint that included both unserved and underserved areas.  In a few cases, the applications emphasized the service to unserved areas while failing to comment in meaningful detail about the extent of overlap with an existing broadband provider in the underserved area the applicant proposed to serve.  My observation is that an applicant proposing wireless broadband service should discuss in detail the extent to which its project is intended to compete with existing broadband service in underserved areas.  The Commission may choose to assume the worst if an applicant is unclear on this point.

Public-private partnerships.  A public-private partnership can contribute to the evaluation in two respects.  First, a public entity must have a private partner to be eligible for a grant, as required by Wis. Stat. § 196.504(1)(a)3.  Second, a public-private partnership is a priority factor that can be used to enhance the merit of an application.  During the last grant cycle, the Commission did not rule on or otherwise decide on the specific documentation necessary to show the existence of a partnership for either use.  My observation is that the partnership should be apparent from the text of the application.  At a minimum, the application should contain evidence that the partners have knowingly and intentionally joined together in a partnership.  In the last grant cycle, greater weight was given to those public-private partnerships in which all of the participating partners contributed labor, financial or in-kind resources, rather than just a letter of support.

I stress again that the Commission is not bound by my observations.  These comments are merely intended to give all applicants the benefit of my views about how the previous grant cycle process worked out.  If there any questions regarding my comments or any other aspect of the application process, please address those questions to the State Broadband Office URL provided in the application instructions.

Find more information on ongoing statewide PSC Broadband Grant Workshop here.

INFORMATIONAL MATERIALS for Grant Workshops:

PSC Broadband Grant 2014 packet

Broadband Grants Workshop Short Agenda

DOT-DNR Tower Site Use Policy 2014.pdf

FY14 Broadband Expansion grant awards

PSC-BB_Expansion_Grant__2014_Award_Map(3)

WI DNR-DOT Towers

WI Underserved Broadband Coverage


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