TMCnews Featured Article

August 10, 2009

How to Navigate Broadband Stimulus Application Hell

By Craig Settles, Founder and President,

It’s crunch time and there’s probably dozens of NOFA guides and FAQs all over the Internet to help you cross your application t’s and dot the i’s.
I’m going to come at this a little differently. Here’s a check list of random things related to your application – but not all of them directly in the application rules – that you should consider.
Find a local marketing agent, marketing director of a local business or equivalent within a government agency. Have that person review your Executive Summary as well as (for you folks chasing BTOP money) your description of the “Project Purpose” and “Enhanced Service for Health Care Delivery, Education and Children.” He or she should look at how succinctly and powerfully the first two sentences of each narrative describe and sell the main benefits your proposal will deliver.
Here’s why.
At some point, your proposal is going to sit in front of a tired, blurry eyed federal employee who has two or more proposals with the same technology, similar engineering designs and the same goal as yours, but this person may only be able to fund one. They also have to decide which proposal has to sit higher on the priority list your governor’s office gets to review. All other things being equal, the ability of your opening sentence in any narrative sections of the application – and supporting statements – to grip the imagination and stir the heartbeat of the reader plays a big role in raising your proposal above all others. Good marketing people live by opening sentences that grip and stir.
Have someone read through your application that’s a Twitter fiend. If you spend half your life talking in 140-character statements, you start to develop a great knack for making points in as few words as possible. The person reviewing dozens of proposals is likely to be more responsive to brevity. Just be sure to run the spell checker after your Twitter checker finishes since tweeter s have a flair for truncating words.
Don’t over exaggerate your proposal’s claims of greatness.
Do, however, make sure you have as many endorsement letters as you can round up from stakeholders, potential institutional customers and politicians with clout. If you’ve read the NOFA well, you know that support from these entities is smiled upon by NTIA/RUS. Plus, you want the governor’s office to be your biggest fan when their time comes to review the Fed’s prioritized list of proposals. Ye with the biggest list of supporters whom the governor cares about most likely will get the heartiest support from said governor.
Do have a plan for how you’re going to fight any incumbent challenge that may come after your proposal is submitted.
Of equal importance, you may want to rev up data collection from constituents that shows how your proposed service areas are un- or underserved. Remember the incumbent challenge. Remember the governor’s office list review.
Since I would be remiss in not providing some checklist tips on the particulars of the applications, I asked for some input from Andrew Lipman, a Partner at Bingham law firm who’s been dealing with telecom-related government applications more:
  1. Applicants (Infrastructure, Public Computer Center, or Sustainable Adoption) should check that their application responses are consistent. In particular, infrastructure applicants should check that their application responses are consistent with the proposed funded service area information generated by the NTIA and RUS broadband mapping tool, including census blocks, census communities, total population, and total households.
  2. Applicants (Infrastructure, Public Computer Center, or Sustainable Adoption) must remember to describe key partners and their project involvement in the Executive Summary, [and reply fully to] questions about organizational readiness as well as the direct question about key partnerships.
  3. NTIA applicants (Infrastructure, Public Computer Center, or Sustainable Adoption) must remember to attach supporting evidence, such as a letter, to demonstrate their 20% match commitment, unless a waiver is requested.
  4. Applicants (Infrastructure, Public Computer Center, or Sustainable Adoption) should check before submitting the application that all required application questions are complete, all required attachments are provided and appropriately labeled, and all required certifications are signed and attached.
So there you go. More things to add to your already over-packed cerebrum. But as they say, the devil is in the details. See ya next week over on the other side of this stimulus journey from hell.

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Craig Settles helps organizations use broadband technologies to improve government and stakeholders' operating efficiency, as well as local economic development.

Edited by Michael Dinan