Four tips for companies applying for broadband stimulus funds - page 2

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won't miss an opportunity to torpedo your chances to get your proposal funded.

3. Get accurate maps

Unless people have their act really tight here, proposals can be squashed due to broadband mapping. Most of you are working without good maps--or any maps at all--and those maps from Connected Nation don't count. They're part of the problem. What's more, it's hard to determine what you need and from where to get it to comply with the mapping data requirements. Concurrently the state is grappling with how to collect data for a statewide map.

Some states such as California decided to create their own. CPUC partnered with the smaller providers more than happy to provide data, built reasonably accurate maps and encouraged all comers to add to the process as long as their data is accurate. There are glitches, but we're working past them. The big providers refused to play, but the state moved forward anyway. As much as is possible, try to duplicate these type of dynamics in your state.

One particularly big challenge is getting data from consumers and businesses showing broadband demand. However, this is your trump card for surviving incumbents' challenges (see next item) to your proposal. People find Connected Nation's maps objectionable and rail at Notice of Funding Availability's (NOFA) support of incumbent NDAs because both force you to accept data that has no credible verification by actual end users. Luckily, the NOFA also requires that you have a couple of sources of data.

Though not simple to execute in the time remaining, I strongly encourage you to round up those local partners and stakeholders I alluded to earlier to help you collect as much hard data as possible on who isn't getting any Internet access, plus who isn't getting adequate or affordable access. Think about it. This is the really important data, not the locations where providers claim to have service.

I participated in a demo of RidgeviewTel's demand aggregation tool that pretty easily lets constituents, a provider's staff, or a company rep at an 800 number, capture data that's mapped immediately. Set up requires some work and execution requires persistent pushing (hence, involving partners). But you get maps quickly, cheaply and with more useful data as you layer on information such as providers' network resources.  Broadband Census also offers this kind of easy and effective demand aggregation.

Even if you can't collect as much as you'd like by Aug. 14, the community still benefits by continuing this effort beyond the deadline.

4. Compile demand data after you submit your proposal  

Tucked away deep in the NOFA infrastructure application is another gift to the incumbents. At some point incumbents will have a 30-day period in which they can contest your proposal by claiming they already cover the un-served area you want to cover. (Sigh.) No rest for the weary.

It is undetermined what kind of counter-challenge you can mount, but the CPUC is advising applicants to bring as much evidence as possible to the table to make your case. If you're continuously compiling demand data even after submitting your proposal, you have a much better chance to fight off a challenge than if you do nothing. Additionally, every state has to create their own broadband map, and assuming your state hasn't been co-opted, data you're collecting can be thrown into the mix.

Granted, these aren't ideal approaches to the challenge of bringing broadband where it needs to be. But class warfare is never pretty. 

Craig Settles, President of Successful.com, is an industry expert who helps organizations pursue stimulus grants.

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