Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) 2 has been released and I'm sure there has been a run on Tums. I have a full-on analysis of the new rules, but I'll get to than in a bit. First, let's get to the heart of things that are probably on top of your list of concerns.
You don't have a lot of time to meet the deadline (March 15), so you probably want to start making your go/no-go decision in the next couple of days. The National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) are going their separate paths with separate rules that are easier to decipher and address.
You don't have to file so much stuff when you submit your application with NTIA. They save all that misery for when they call you into the due diligence phase. On the other hand, RUS is doing away with the diligence part. So it's all and everything with your application.
You better have someone handy who can write clear, concise proposals that also make people's hearts soar. There are only two panelists reviewing your NTIA app. You can't afford to get a hung jury. A senior official has 25 proposals with 2-0 approval decisions and 25 with split decisions. Which pile do you think will get all the money? On the other side of the street with RUS, there are no second chances to make a good first impression.
I said it a thousand times last year--partnerships are key if you want to win a grant. NTIA is very much up front about the value of partnerships, particularly those of the public-private pedigree. This can't be a partnership in name only to score brownie points. The public-side entities need to be a driving force and possibly Alpha dog in the deal. Last week we saw two new middle-mile awards where it's all about the partnership between the public and non-profit entities.
RUS cares about partnerships too. They're focused on last-mile projects, but don't assume stand-alone small town proposals will rise to the top of the pack. Multi-jurisdiction proposals will get the lion's share of awards for the same reason middle-mile projects do. It's easier to approve a single proposal covering 10 towns than to wade through 10 individual apps that cover the same number of people. It may not be fair, it won't be official, but that's how I see it based on NTIA/RUS performance to date.
One more item in the "Life's Not Fair (depending on where you sit)" Department: If there was any question about whether we'd see net neutrality and open access rules this round, you can forget about it. NTIA hammered that point pretty hard. This may keep some players out of the game, but Round 1 history says there'll be plenty of others coming in to fill the bill.
NOFA 2's impact on national broadband strategies
We can expect the stimulus program to have some impact on the FCC's national broadband strategy. For one thing, there are a lot of lessons about process, procedure and application rules to be learned from NOFA 1 and 2. The third shot at moving massive amounts of money into broadband projects via USF reform should be an easier haul...Continued