Broadband Expansion Grants 2015-16 PSC-W

08/06/2015 Uncategorized by j.smith

Download the PDF of the Broadband Expansion Grant

Download the PDF Broadband Expansion Grant clarification (8.27.15)

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Ellen Nowak, Chairperson
Phil Montgomery, Commissioner
Mike Huebsch, Commissioner

610 North Whitney Way
P.O. Box 7854
Madison, WI  53707-7854

August 6, 2015

From:               Wisconsin State Broadband Office

To:                     Persons Interested in the Broadband Expansion Grant Program

Re: Fiscal Year 2016 Broadband Expansion Grants 5-BF-100

As you may already know, Governor Walker announced yesterday that the state is now accepting applications for Fiscal Year 2016 Broadband Expansion Grants.  The purpose of this message is to ensure that the news of this grant opportunity reaches those individuals that have contacted our office regarding this program, and to highlight some specific changes that have been adopted for the FY 16 grant cycle.

  • Applications are due and must be uploaded to the PSC’s ERF system by Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at 4:00 pm Central Time.
  • Clarifying questions regarding the application process or content should be addressed to the State Broadband Office, as provided for in Section 1.5 of the application instructions, and must be submitted no later than September 16, 2015.

There are four significant changes to the Broadband Expansion Grant program this year.

  1. The legislature has approved an increase in the money available for grants. The Commission may award up to $1,500,000 in grants in Fiscal Year 2016, as well as an additional $1.5 M in FY 2017.  See Application Instructions, s. 1.2.1.
  1. The legislature has added a fifth priority factor to the grant evaluation: Scalability.  A scalable project is a project that has growth potential in the future.  Grant applicants are invited to submit specific evidence indicating the ability to increase parameters relating to the size of the project’s network (e.g., number of users, number of network nodes, number of services provided, size of the geographic footprint) while maintaining the quality of its service.

The evaluation will give greater priority to projects that commit to implement specific enhancements in the future, and a lesser priority to projects that offer merely the potential for future growth.  See Application Instructions, ss. 1.4, 3.2.1.4 and 4.4.4.e.

  1. The Commission has decided to mirror the recent change the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted to its definition of broadband service. See 2015 Broadband Progress Report, FCC 15-10, released Feb 4, 2015.  For FY 2016, Broadband service is defined to mean a communications service providing to end users, at a minimum, two-way data transmission with speeds of at least 25 mbps for download transmission and 3 mbps for upload transmission, but does not include a commercial mobile radio service or a broadband service in which a stand-alone satellite provider connects directly to the end user with a satellite connection.

This change in definition ensures that the broadband expansion grant program encourages improvement throughout the state where service metrics fall below the new FCC standard.  The definition does not prevent applications from CMRS and satellite service providers.  Applications from CMRS and satellite service providers are most welcome.  The purpose of this definition language is to ensure that the areas of the state regarded as unserved or underserved are measured with regard to access to cable and wireline broadband telecommunications services – the services with greater construction costs and smaller service footprint.  See Application Instructions, s. 1.4.

  1. The Commission will provide a public comment period so that interested persons may review the grant applications that have been submitted and file written comments concerning the relative merits of the applications under review. The public comment period for this grant cycle is October 1 to October 21, 2015.

One caution here however is that the Commission will only accept public comments.  Criticism of applications explicitly or implicitly based upon confidential and other non-public service data will not be given weight in the evaluation process.  See Application Instructions, s. 4.2.

Persons interested in reviewing and commenting on grant applications should go to the PSC ERF website, http://psc.wi.gov/apps40/ERF_public/info/howto.aspx, and sign up for notification for docket 5-BF-100 to receive immediate notification of applications as they come in.

The schedule of events related to this year’s grant application is as follows:

     DATE      EVENT
   
Aug 5, 2015 Date of issue of the application instructions
Sept 16, 2015 Last day for submitting questions and requests for clarification
Sept 30, 2015 Applications due from applicants
Oct 1 – Oct 21, 2015 Public comment period
Oct 21, 2015 Last day for submitting comments regarding filed grant applications

Administrative and process questions may be addressed to Dennis Klaila at (609) 267-9780 or at dennis.klaila@wisconsin.gov.  Questions and concerns about the content of the application or the meaning of any provision of the application instructions should be addressed to the state broadband office as provided in the Instructions at s. 1.5.  If it is necessary to clarify the instructions, this office will send out a message to inform all parties of the clarification.  Thank you for your interest in this program.

Sincerely,

Dennis J. Klaila
Program and Policy Analyst
Division of Business & Communications Services

DK:DL:01109403


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