Why you should launch a "planning" program as well as a "mapping" one
In the rush to apply for mapping grants, states should not forget the opportunity to leverage up to $500,000 of federal stimulus funds for broadband planning. So, if you are about to submit to the NTIA a broadband mapping proposal for your state, we urge you to take the parallel step of launching a planning program too.
That planning program should aim to organize the most efficient way to help your state’s businesses and communities overcome the barriers to adopting BEST practices – hence reaping their benefits of their broadband effort.
Because it’s worth remembering that the real value of broadband is not only measured by availability, speed or price — though all of these are important enabling factors. Rather, that value is most directly tied to the benefits of broadband connectivity combined with e-Solutions - an e-Solution being “a way to do what we’ve already doing, only better thanks to the Internet”. Thanks to over 10 years of hands-on experience, we know that the winning equation for the country must be: “broadband connectivity + e-Solutions = self-sustaining stimulus.”
And we also know that the key to maximizing broadband and e-Solutions benefits is to develop a “combined understanding” of both barriers to adoption and use and BEST (broadband e-Solutions transformative) practices, and an ongoing involvement of teams and people on the ground, in our communities, businesses and organizations. Achieving that requires solid planning!
As noted above, up to $500,000 is available to each state mapping project to support such planning activities.
But to take advantage of this federal support for broadband planning, states need to submit a planning proposal and budget along with their mapping proposal. And they need to do so by NTIA’s August 14 deadline. Because if they don’t, the $500,000 available for planning effectively disappears for their state. So, don’t miss it. In our view, decision makers in every state should take advantage of this opportunity to set a course toward “self-sustaining stimulus.”
Do you need help?
For states concerned about how to come up with the 20% matching funds, we suggest careful consideration of ways to cover some, or all, of this amount through in-kind contributions. According to the NOFA, these can include “employee or volunteer services; equipment; supplies; indirect costs; computer hardware and software; use of facilities; [and] expenditures for existing programs presented as part of the [planning] project proposal.” Based on our experience, there’s a lot of value that can be derived from these forms of in-kind contribution.
Also, to help communities understand and plan the move up the BEST practices learning curve, we’ve developed tools such as e-Solutions Benchmarking (to establish a baseline and direction for planning investments in broadband infrastructure and sustainable adoption programs) and Evaluation and Adoption Analytics (to help evaluate the impacts of these investments and adjust plans and strategies based on clear and measurable evidence).