Stirring the Pot: Good luck grant applicants

Originally posted on Blandin eNews

It’s now September and I want to wish “good luck!” to our MN Twins, Vikings and Gophers as they seek this fall, in the words of Gopher coach PJ Fleck, to be “elite!”

Much more importantly, I want to wish good luck to the many communities that are putting the final touches on their Border to Border Broadband grants.  I have been keeping close watch on more than a few of these efforts as communities work in different ways with broadband providers to submit winning applications.  These community efforts prove the wisdom of two famous quotes.  The first is Seneca’s “Good luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”  The other is Edison’s “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration!”  I know that most every grant applications will have had both plenty of preparation and perspiration motivated by both inspired leaders and a necessary grant program.

In fact, many communities know that just finding a quality broadband provider partner requires some luck, especially those on the short end of the stick!   With decisions about match levels, grants versus loans, market development efforts and subscription drives, everyone is trying to thread the needle to put forth the required public support to satisfy providers’ ROI requirements and to protect the public interest.  For those working to support a competitive provider, we are seeing sophisticated use of GIS mapping as they attempt to thread an even smaller needle on unserved and underserved considerations and CAF2/ACAM funded areas, plus anticipate prospective incumbent provider challenges.

I am counting on the staff at DEED OBD to rely not on luck, but instead on their good judgment (which I know they have in abundance).  I offer them my best wishes as they dig through what is sure to be far more funding requests than funds available.  They will need to sort through legislated criteria, program rules and technical and financial considerations.  That would be a tough job.  As I write this, I realize that maybe they could use some luck to add to their judgment and likely perspiration!

And when grant announcements are made, I will appreciate the joy that select Minnesotans will feel when they learn that their road, neighborhood, township or county has been funded for broadband improvements.  Personally, I prefer the projects that cover large geographic areas like counties or, at a minimum, multiple townships.  I fear when I see haphazard, incomplete infrastructure deployment – down one road, but not the next, maybe next year, maybe not.  While one area wins with unlimited FTTH, while across the road they may have “scalable” 25/3 or quite possibly less or nothing.  This is not really statewide broadband infrastructure planning and deployment; it’s more like a broadband lottery.  I think that we can do better.

Finally, rather than hoping for luck, I have high hopes that early next year, state policy makers will see that Minnesota’s efforts on rural broadband are incomplete.  The emerging regional broadband coalitions and the anticipated large number of 2017 unfunded grant applications make this fact self-evident.  Further state resources will be required to create the ubiquitous, world-class broadband networks that are the necessary platform for rural economic vitality and quality of life.

 

 

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