Monday, December 13, 2010

Transparency Dies. Broadbandlawyer Lives.

There's a whole lotta lobbying going on down at the FCC.

They might as well replace the front doors with a revolving one.

It should be interesting to see how this Net Neutrality or Open Internet, depending on your preference or leaning, pans out.

I tell you one thing, it's a lot like the DREAM Act bill, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the START Treaty and this Middle Class Tax mess. I don't think that is a secret.

If it doesn't get resolved by the end of this year, it's going to get murkier and murkier come January.

Let's just say the opportunities for the Free Birds are fleeting fast. Catch what you can!

She. He. It. Lives.

In Broadband Stimulus world, there's buzz and loose lips yapping about possible lawsuits against the administration of the funding.

Keeping my ears to the ground as it develops.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the numbers game

i have tweeted, blogged and stated this before...

but i cannot reinforce strong enough that the secret to a strong application is in the numbers.

in addition to having at least 30% matching funds and a letter(s) from actual funders that will underwrite that 30+%, it is key to make sure your numbers presented on the financial portion of your application show that the project will be presented and completed in the most cost-efficient manner.

this means make sure you apportion costs so that most of the project budget will be used to support the most direct elements of the project. tangential and indirect costs can come from your working capital expenditures that will NOT be part of the funds requested from the government.

this brings us to the topic of taxes. the last communication i received from an inside source indicated that there is no certainty EVEN NOW that the grant funds from btop and bip will be exempt from taxes. the source's team was only able to get a speculative and not a definitive yes or no on the tax issue, even in spite of the IRS guidance which many agreed still left some holes and questions outstanding. worrisome, yes?

the source expressed frustration because s/he is deep in the middle of negotiating the final stages of funding and/or applying for round 2, depending on how everything pans out.

as all those who are checking and double checking their numbers right now leading up to the deadline this friday should know, it's important to know now and not later whether some of the budget will be used to pay taxes or not.

for a multimillion dollar project, the portion of the budget used to paying taxes can DEFINITELY affect the provisioning of service, the build out and definitely the bottom line.

what is a weary-eyed, exhausted project grantee or applicant to do? err on the side of caution and in the abundance of caution, i would say prepare for the possible situation when it will be determined (maybe later) that your grant would be subject to federal taxation.

best be safe than sorry. that is my motto. well, it's really my grandpop's motto, but i asked and he said i can share it with you all.

jokes! i got jokes this afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!

good luck! happy applying!

oh and another thing, i think broadbandlawyer got hacked when i wasn't looking. whoever it is trying to dig in my digs, CUT IT OUT! if you ask nicely, i can give you a piece of my blog space. manners, people. ha!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Scoops! Get your Scoops here!

Ice cream for breakfast anyone?

(Suspend belief that I am on the East coast and submitting this in the afternoon. This post is still breakfast for those in the Midwest and on the West coast and in Hawaii! ha!)

Here you go in a nutshell: the latest insider info coming out of the mad warehouse:

Broadband Stimulus.

Aaaah! As you 2,000 or so unfunded applicants and newbie applicants scramble to assemble your Round 2 applications, take some time to pour out some libation in memorium of the over 150 Round 1 due diligence applicants that are STILL sitting in limbo.

Yup, those fortunate few, once the envy of all the under and unfunded applicants are being/have been told to REAPPLY in Round 2. For some reason or another (don't ask them why because, like you, they too have NOT BEEN TOLD) their application was not deemed good enough to push them over the hump and actually get funded.

There are 22 such BTOP applicants and 130 BIP applicants that are not rejected, yet not funded either. Let's call these "The Lost Boys" (in memory of the late 1/2 of the Two Coreys: Corey Haim.).

You would think being told to re-file would be simple enough, right? Not so much as many of you re-filing should know by now, the refocus and shift in priorities, and even the application requirements itself , are making it not so easy. Some of these folks were told to refile and given 2 short weeks to fix up whatever was not good enough with their last application and re-apply in this round with the rest of the lot. Who knows if they will even be given a priority.

You wouldn't care so much unless you had decided to forgo applying to cover an area proposed by one of these Round 1 due diligence applicants. You probably presumed they'd eventually be funded so you'd better not even bother loop those areas in your application. Now you know you really could've done so. So you too, errant speculator, are also getting the shaft by this misapplication of administrative processing.

True, so far all of those that past on to due diligence have gotten funded, but there is no guarantee that these "Lost Boys" will too. Even the NTIA and RUS said so.

Finally, since all of this was for the residents and businesses in the unserved and underserved areas, what happens at the end of round 2 when they still don't have sufficient or any broadband options? Simply because of this overlap? Those folks will be the real losers in all this, now wouldn't they? 'Tis a bloody shame, yes.

To recap, there are:

BTOP: 28 due diligence applications still waiting on funding or rejection
BIP: 124 due diligence applicants still waiting on funding or rejection

TOTAL: 152 <--That's a whole lot of Lost Boys. Here's to hoping the Lost Boys find their way because Lord knows we have enough Vampires running around from that annoying Twilight saga. Cheers!

Leveraging of Broadband Stimulus Funding.

I would imagine that those in the business of speculating on whether or not and to what extent to invest in and provide private equity support to BTOP and BIP projects really need to know whether the investment would be worth the effort and mullah. Granted these financiers take risks as are the applicants in going through all this process in the first place, and heck even the government that these ambitious projects will take off and indeed bridge the Broadband gap and get more Americans connected. Whatever it takes, we are all hedging bets that this effort will enable us, as a nation, to climb the ladder a rung or two and maybe even surpass the so-called "Third World" or developing nations that are ahead of the US in terms of Broadband deployment.

This weekend, I got a response to a lengthy query from an investor who is eager to learn how, if at all, the government plans on leveraging the total funds allocated to the broadband stimulus. The answer I received was this:

The exact amount of leveraging will not be known until the end of round 2 and will be based on the total amount of loans and grants that are approved.

I tweeted that but what I left out was the part about how the final leveraged amount is dictated by the ARRA. So there is a clue there. Read between the lines in the enabling legislation, that is ARRA, and you will find additional insight into how it may be done. (Don't make ME have to do it for you. Not getting paid enough for all that. ha!)

I also think it would be worth it looking at the Farm Bill and looking at how those funds (loans and grants) have been treated. It can safely be assumed that a similar process and formula would be used here as well. Good luck! Happy speculating!

The National Broadband Plan.

I also got a chance to get a sneak peek at the essence of the National Broadband Plan slated for release tomorrow.

The Wireless Industry is a winner:

I am obviously not the only one to get a copy of leaked pieces of the plan as there are several journalists and media outlets giving out clues in their publications. The latest came from Businessweek which published a story this morning headlining that AT&T, Verizon, Google May Be Winners in U.S. Broadband Plan. The wireless industry clearly comes out on top the biggest! Why?

The FCC will propose that the Broadcasters give back some of their analog spectrum that they've been holding onto for dear life. In exchange, the government will give them a cut in on the action after the FCC re-auctions that spectrum.

Those that sell to the wireless industry are in the running to fare well, the article says. I agree. The spectrum has nearly dried up and we clearly need more with these smart phones becoming even smarter and with folks like Apple and Dell coming out with portable pads, and 4G and 5G devices, applications and programs sopping and demanding even more bandwidth and spectrum.

Further, there is encouragement on creative and innovative uses of the unlicensed spectrum so wi-max, wi-fi, mesh technology products and service providers will also be in the running to maximize new opportunities. I'm not sure if there will be more regulation, but I think there will be a freeing up of uses of the unlicensed spectrum as well as a widening of options for it.

The little guys will be winners.

Disability Community - There will be laws, policy and practical forums and steps to assist the disability community get broadband access, and skills necessary to take advantage of it. So if you are a manufacturer or supplier of goods and services to that industry, you should be poised to do okay. This is good for the disability community as well, of course.

Small Businesses - There are nuggets in there to help fund, train and provide other resources to get small business IT and broadband systems up to par so they can compete. Excellent news for most of my clients which are small businesses!

Native Americans can expect a separate funding for broadband on reservations and other efforts to encourage deployment, training and adoption. So if you haven't gotten funding through the BTOP/BIP for your Tribal project, there may be some additional funding out there for you to apply for via this new initiative.

Lawyers, analysts, lobbyists and policy thinking and talking heads will be winners.

With an estimated 40+ NPRMs and NOIs slated to come out after this plan is released (not to mention additional legislation from Congress and regulations from sister agencies), folks like me and my friends are in the running to do well helping clients figure it out and make sure their respective interests are protected and represented. There will be so much in-fighting because as you can imagine there will be folks on both sides of each issue all elbowing to stay ahead and afloat.

Talk about stimulus funding. At least some out-of-work attorneys may get some good work out of this. (and believe me, in this economy, the lawyer pool is flooded with many great unemployed talent)

That's all I got for now. All of it may be madness, but at least it makes life interesting for me at least, whose favorite ice cream flavor is Vanilla, of all things!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The MATRIX - 5 thoughts on the BTOP/BIP mystery

I bet some of you are begging to be unplugged from the Matrix at this point as you scramble about trying to put together the best possible Round 2 Application you can in this very short window of time .

Well I have been told that I have been conspicuously silent amidst the melee (better known as utter BS) that has been ensuing these past few weeks.

Alas, I have awoken from my slumber (that is work for clients) to submit my two cents (for what it's worth) on recent events. My unapologetic brash take on things:

1. First, the denial to extend the deadline beyond March 15. Well just when you thought you couldn't get screwed even further by this process, we get this news that despite the fact that some of you got your rejection letters only recently and some not at all, you STILL have just a little over TWO WEEKS to prep and file your application. This is rubbish on several levels; the most obvious being that now that the government got rid of some of the ridiculous unrealistic and unreasonable requirements and definitions, you better believe there will be a very very strong pool of applicants competing for the same money this Round. I predict an increase in applications because you've got the losers from Round 1 and then those who had the luxury or foresight to sit by and watch the madness on the sidelines, learning all the while from our mistakes. All of these guys will be in this FINAL ROUND. It's not ironic that the deadline is on the Ides of March because there will indeed be many running to the death to get their applications done in time. I pity the fools...wait, I think I am one of those fools. Never mind. Just call me Titus. Beware of the ides of March, Ceasars.

2. Not getting sufficient info as to the reason for the denial. Again, how the heck is somebody or some entity supposed to fix whatever thing was wrong with their application if you don't provide ample reasoning as to what was wrong? This isn't rocket science. Heck, this isn't Rocks for Jocks Geology science. But I tell ya what, Just quit your complaining because you won't get a better answer. EVER. Stop waiting for it and get to cracking on your application already. The reason? The government given this practically insurmountable task didn't know the hell what it wanted either. So that being said, a good chunk of folks were set up for failure from the get go. I think those stupid maps and that unserved standard was to blame. People have got to realize that this entire process was a trial and error experiment for the government too. Agencies not used to dispersing this amount of cash to this many people over a short period of time were asked to perform a miracle on this one. Yeah they've messed up and messed up often, but I think we've got to cut them some slack and realize what they were up against. I have noticed that many have moved on. Let's catch up with them, shall we?

3. On landlines getting more grants than wireless and satellites and other nontraditional broadband transmission services. I am not surprised one bit. The problem though is that traditional fiber and terrestrial based projects are not QUICK to deply and wasn't one of the purposes of this all to quickly get folks connected? I imagine there will be indeed plenty of jobs created by folks having to dig trenches to start or complete a fiber ring. In the end of the day, all those wireless, broadband by powerlines, satellite and other transmission projects must realize that those mechanisms for getting broadband to the underserved and unserved are not as reliable, tested as down home wireline.'s not right but I think the government may have been playing it safe here in not wanting to pass out taxpayer dollars to unchartered territories that way. I don't think it's right because there are lots of innovation, creativity and unique platforms out there that I think would definitely work. Then, when you are talking for rural areas, wired services just isn't an option. Beggars can't be choosers so while the folks in urban epicenters with legacy networks firing up their broadband may have the best access, the wireless options would have been the very next best option to getting high speed access. Over time, technology will catch up sooner than expected and the QOS (quality of service) concerns will evolve and resolve themselves over time.

4. Minority , rural and Native American tribal communities not getting funded. Well you best believe there will be plenty of uproar and complaints being made on the Hill and to the White House on this one. The minority groups have a sympathetic ear at least this go round as the President is big on opening opportunities for groups not traditionally awarded these types of grants. SO NO SDB (read minority groups) got a grant though I learned that 13 of NTIA's 30 awardees said they had SDB contractors to get that one point. Whoop dee doo! And about rural communities not being funded as much as expected, well isn't that some stuff? This entire project was for those poor blokes in the first place. I'm shaking my head on that one. Finally, the Native Americans are still getting shafted, I see. What else is new?

5. Finally, I think it's high time we quit being a bunch of winey cry babies. It is what it is and us sitting around Twittering and Blogging about the Asaniness isn't gonna change a damn thing. Really, we protested, signed petitions and we couldn't even get a frigging extension of a week even. Dang it!

I haven't gotten a chance to dig into RUS's Round 2 App yet, but I have looked into and started helping out clients applying for the BTOP program. The answer to what you need to win this round I believe lies in the BTOP's "Key Metrics Dashboard" which you can download here. Within the lines of this chart which asks for various specific details about the project is the invisible SCORE SHEET we never got to see. The difference between getting a due diligence invite or not. What BTOP asks for in this document make up nice PR soundbites for a release and report to the White House. Your answer must be impressive, but REALISTIC. I do believe some Round 1 applicants started to believe their own hype and over stated what they can accomplish in their project. All it did was make them look amateurish and not qualified to pull it off. I've been wrong before but many times more right than not so...take that advice with a grain of salt.

Me? I'm going back in the trenches and hope to surface again more frequently to share news, scoops, and other deets as I get them.

Do you take the RED pill (See how far the rabbit hole goes) or
the BLUE (Wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe)??


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

more non-news from RUS

from a query asking about the status of one of my clients who has not received a due diligence notice neither a rejection letter, this is what the RUS Help Desk had to say:

BIP is in the process of sending out the round 1 notification letters. There may be a delay due to the Federal Offices in Washington being closed for the past few days.

It is my understanding that these letters will be sent via mail and email.

BIP has completed the process of sending out due diligence letters.

The helpdesk can not provide the status of individual applications.

In other words, forget about it and do like Uncle Larry said and get on your Round 2 application!

I have been out of the loop, but something that struck me when I last spoke with a RUS administrator. There are other existing programs out there where each applicant is assigned with a government agent who helps the applicant modify its application if it can to meet the needs of the government and to more easier be awarded the grant.

I would like to think something similar should have been done in this case as well.

Have three piles: 1. automatic rejects for various obvious factors and none dealing with politics, but perhaps a technical reason; 2. acceptances and 3. in-betweens. those that only need minor tweaking to get them there. I think rather than throw out ordinarily good projects that perhaps need adjustments here and there, it would be better to work with these applications to get them where they need to be.

I am certain there are dozens if not hundreds of applications that fit into this category. To have these guys start over at this point seems inefficient and I imagine frustrates many to end. I am sure many are considering throwing in the towel and simply giving up.

What to do?

What questions would you ask or what guidance are you looking for going forward?

I know I have been bombarded with emails about numerous webinars being hosted by various companies looking to capitalize on the frustration and provide guidance where they can.

No one should expect to hear from the USDA, NTIA or anyone in the federal government for awhile as it has been closed all week as folks weather these series of blizzards that have blown through this region. I know I, for one, lost power and consequently heat, from a major outage in my neighborhood. Just as we cleared the driveway and started to venture out to replenish supplies, we were hit with a third and fourth storm last night and this morning!


Friday, January 29, 2010

There's Gold in Dem There Hills!

Man, oh man! I do hope you guys have been paying attention to all the wealth of information being shared on the blogs, twitter and the websphere, in general. If not, here is a round up and I dare say a Follow Friday of epic proportions! ha! :

By now, you've probably seen NTIA's posting of all funded projects, I am sure.

Susan Estrada shared a couple of successful BTOP applications:

And folks have been summarizing their frustrations (I deleted an earlier permeation of mine on account of me reading it after it posting and realizing it was quite harsh - in a blame the victim - sort of way. Anyhoo, I like that folks are coming up with critical solutions and suggestions and not just blowing off steam.)

So, even though I cooled down, you can still catch ColoComLwyer rant as he gave the government quite the earful in his piece on his blog yesterday.

PJ from stepped out of his traditional neutral journalism role to dole out some advice for tackling the government's mishandling of the Broadband Stimulus roll out.

It was so moving that it stimulated (get it Stimulating broadband?) Susan Estrada to urge her readers on her blog to join the effort and write your Congressmen/women to help change the broken system.

And I am heartened to see folks cluing us all in and sharing their inside knowledge.

While you're scrambling to refile, some of the folks who've been around us guiding us all through the anxious "waiting game" these past months are trying to help out in the next round, alas Broadband Stimulus Craig Settles is offering assistance. As is WirelessScott whose company AspenWireless helped some of his clients get funded. Recall, he was one of the first persons boasting keeping us abreast as to what his winning client was going through as it was going through the award grant process. Not sure who's behind this company, but Keenwire too is offering to review applications for a flat rate. whew! I wonder how "flat" is flat?

JamesMardis shared his tweets from watching the latest oversight hearing for those of us too busy to tune in at that moment, but could easily monitor tweets from the middle of a meeting. Thanks James.

RahulG a reporter for is gathering questions to take to the FCC for the next breakfast and I assume to actually take to the FCC for an answer. I left mine. You should too.

tweeted the pdf to the Federal Register notice publication of the NOFA II and has been keeping us up to date on all the scheduled hearings and workshops.

Apart from moderating a very useful Broadband Stimulus LinkedIn group, JenniferHoltz has been sharing lots of good info via her Twitter page.

As has been the always on top of things BroadbandAccess guy, Michael Smith who has an eerie knack of knowing information from NTIA and RUS and giving us the heads up as the info is released.

Occamnetworks has been providing its insight along the way as well on its BBStim blog and recently tweeted live and direct from its BBSTim webinar.

The Benton Foundation has been an excellent source of Communications news from around the nation.

As usual, Geoff Daily is never shy about sharing his predictions and suggestions on the BBStim issue and other network policy issues on his very poignant App-Rising blog

OneCommunity chronicles and reports the Broadband Headlines of the day.

and by All means follow GrantGros, the reporter who I had my first Internet "beef" would. I feel like I have some street "cred" now. He tweets links to stories on communications and broadband each week that he writes for ComputerWorld, IDG News Service and PC World.

And while you're at it, you might as well check out the adoption efforts of the BroadbandForAmerica coalition of industry companies and groups. The Broadband4Us twitter stream usually has good nuggets of info as well.

edited to add:

Check out the Wireless Cowboys blog at which is full of good wireless ISP stories about delivering broadband in rural areas. The series on Medicine Bow, Wyoming is an appropriate one for anyone wanting to find out about delivering broadband to really rural areas.

Thanks matt!

Who did I miss?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

leveraging Round 2 Funding

I got this question in my inbox and I have the cohones to admit I do not have any clue. I looked at the NOFA and was left scratching my head because it wasn't clear nor really spoke to the issue. I haveasked around, but the answer seems to be something I will have to call up my good friend Jessica Zufolo from RUS the meantime, I will leave it here in case anyone comes up with the answer before she calls me back

The RUS has consistently talked about leveraging the money 7:1 for loans, but they have never really explicitly reconciled this with their funding pronouncements. Any ideas?
I think the answer may lie with those who have gotten funding via the other RUS programs like those created via the Farm Bill. However, it is done with those programs, I assume is the way it will be done under RUS. Will get back atchya feller. Hold tight!