Craig Settles, author of Fighting the Next Good Fight for Broadband: A Planning Guide, has long advocated fast, affordable, broadband for municipalities and individuals.
Dailywireless is pleased to announce that he has agreed to share some of his knowledge and insight in this first of three articles.
Partnering for Broadband Grants
By Craig Settles
In the upcoming broadband dash for dollars, the early race is going to go to the swift – those swift to form key partnerships.
After sitting through and reading about the numerous public comment meetings on the broadband stimulus bill, it’s clear to me that partnerships are all the rage right now. Rugged individualism is not a winning trait at the moment. Even if yours is the poster child for unserved communities, there’s too little money and too few federal agency staff facing too many entities wanting and needing a piece of the stimulus pie to realistically deal with oodles of small applications.
From the community perspective, I get my small town a lot more economic bang for the buildout buck if I band with 10 other communities to get super-fast broadband brought to within shouting distance of the city limits than anything I do alone. A fair number of communities realize this, so there’s a lot of jockeying for pole position to be ready when the dash starts.
As a potential grant recipient, particularly local communities, how do you partner for maximum effect?
Public/private partnerships need to be better structured than those arrangements highly touted during the muni wireless hype. For one thing, no one this time expects private sector companies to carry the whole financial load while the city gets free services. Everyone coming to the table – and I encourage lots of partnering with local or regional telcos and WISPs – needs to be out-of-the-box thinkers.
Also expect the cast of community stakeholder partners to be more varied than a couple of years ago. Different communities will have different combinations of stakeholders that make up a dream team of proposal partners.
The main focus of your selection criteria should be who can make you more appealing to Federal agencies, and which stakeholders can help you financially sustain the network once its built?
Nonprofits serving the section of your population that fits NTIA/RUS’ eventual definitions of un-served or underserved could be ideal partners to help your agency-appeal. The business community should be on the top of your list among partners that can help financially sustain the network once it’s built. These organizations tend to need a lot of broadband and will pay for premium (but fairly priced) services that address their needs.
Two county government agencies that are powerful partners are public works and public safety. Broadband applications that address either of these two areas open your grant options to Federal agencies besides NTIA and RUS, such as Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation and possibly Energy. Public works projects also allow you to reduce the cost of broadband infrastructure buildouts. Every road, bridge and public building project is an opportunity to put in broadband infrastructure at a reduced cost.
Though education got the short-changed (according to some) in the overall stimulus bill, k-12 schools, colleges and universities are viable partners. They have a huge need for broadband, which open them to various grant opportunities, plus higher learning institutions with access to many megs of Internet speed are eligible for large research grants that bring huge economic benefits to your community.
True, the race does not always go to the swift or the strong. But when it comes to partnering for grant proposals, speed and strength are the sure ways to bet.
– Craig Settles
Craig Settles is an industry analyst, President of broadband strategy consulting firm Successful.com and author of “Fighting the Next Good Fight for Broadband: A Planning Guide”.