Grants to cover the exorbitant costs for broadband development in rural communities across the state are now available for qualifying towns, cities, and counties, as part of a bipartisan effort to extend broadband internet access to all Arkansans. Applications to the Rural Broadband ID Expenses Trust Fund Grant, awarded through the State of Arkansas and managed by UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, will be accepted on an ongoing basis beginning on the date of the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and continuing until funds are exhausted.
Purpose of the Award
Even before the coronavirus began its stress test on local organizations, city halls, and county governments, public funds were rarely available to execute broadband due diligence business studies, which are the requisite first step toward applying for federal grants and loan funds for broadband development. This award provides critical support for communities to execute those studies and expand broadband access to all Arkansans.
For this funding opportunity, eligible entities are
- Local entities within Arkansas, defined as a county, including without limitation an unincorporated community within a county, a city of the first class, a city of the second class, and an incorporated town.
An applicant may be a prospective and qualified applicant for a federal grant or loan for a broadband development program under the federal regulations promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture, or other federal agencies.
The proposed project must target a predominately rural proposed service area in which 80% or more of the cities, towns, and communities targeted meet the US Census definition of “rural” and no more than 50% of the total population targeted live in urban areas. For the purposes of this opportunity, “rural” and “urban” are defined by the US Census definition: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/geography/guidance/geo-areas/urban-rural.html
Funding Limits, Award Duration and Number of expected Awards
The Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant is a one-time grant to eligible entities to cover expenses for broadband due-diligence business studies incurred by prospective federal broadband program applicants, in anticipation of and before applying for funding from these agencies:
- The Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program,
- The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect),
- The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill; and
- Other federal grants or loans for broadband development programs.
The Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund grants awarded will:
- Not exceed seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000) per grant;
- Be limited to thirty (30) total one-time grant awards; and
- Be made to a federally deposit-insured financial institution designated by the local entity that is a Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund grantee.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit proposals that fall short of requesting the full funding amount per award. To the extent possible, this grant will be awarded equitable geographic distribution, so all parts of Arkansas can benefit. Matching funds are not required but encouraged.
Broadband due-diligence business studies must be conducted and concluded within one hundred eighty (180) days (approximately six months) of the receipt of the Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant. Any funds not spent on the broadband due-diligence business study must be paid back to the Treasurer of State within nine (9) months after receipt of the award.
Additional Conditional, Future Funding
If the United States Government makes an award for broadband support to the local entity after the funded due-diligence business study, additional funds will be disbursed to the local entity to initiate the broadband project. The additional awards will be in the amount of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).
It is anticipated these funds shall defray expenses related to the conclusion of the federal grant or loan, including without limitation the expenses of obtaining a letter of credit, a bankruptcy opinion, or eligible telecommunications carrier application expenses, as required by the federal grant or loan awarded.
This conditional, future funding is only available from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
Eligible costs include broadband due-diligence business studies, defined as analytical research designed to acquire the data necessary to support applications for federal grants or loans for broadband development programs. Without limitation, broadband due-diligence business studies include:
- Full feasibility determinations, including economic business plans
- Twenty-year financial break-even analysis
- Competitive broadband analysis
- Demographic analysis, with comparison to other projects
- The ordering of construction plans to maximize return
- Analysis of federal funding opportunities
Some examples of eligible expenses include:
- Broadband needs assessments through which community members can be surveyed for a desire for broadband, current accessibility to broadband, and limitations of current broadband, while broadband coverage can also be tested and mapped to correct any inaccuracies in advertised speeds.
- Mentorships through consultation with other local governments and/or electrical cooperatives that have secured foundation, state, or federal broadband funding or have leveraged taxes or private investments to fund improved broadband infrastructure.
- Formation of a Broadband Taskforce, comprising of community officials and community members to carry out the activities of the broadband due diligence business studies.
- Securing consultative or contractual support as necessary to enhance local government knowledge in the diversity of options to improve broadband infrastructure, to include private contractors, broadband lawyers, and others with the expertise to advise on a broadband due diligence business plan for local government.
- Securing broadband lawyers to better negotiate and mediate with Internet Service Providers and/or electric cooperatives that could enhance targeted area broadband infrastructure.
- Participation in education, both local or nationally, to improve the understanding of broadband and grant writing among local government leaders.
- Hiring a Certified Public Accountant to perform audits and other financial analyses required for grant proposals.
- Hiring contractors as necessary to assist in pursuing and writing broadband funding grants and loans, including foundation, state, and federal opportunities.
These provisions shall be in effect only from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021:
- File, upon receipt of a Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant, a surety bond for the benefit of the State of Arkansas with the Treasurer of State in the amount of the Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant for assurance that the Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant is utilized for broadband due-diligence business studies;
- File with the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation within four months of the award date an audited accounting of disbursed funds for conducting the broadband due-diligence business studies, including information concerning the organizations conducting the broadband due-diligence business studies, the amount paid to those organizations, and the due date of the broadband due-diligence business studies.
- File with the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation an additional accounting described above after the broadband due diligence study.
- Report to the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation semiannually the status of the local entity’s broadband due diligence business study.
- Cite reports and analyses finalized as a consequence of the Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund grant award.
- Report any awarded federal grant or loan for a broadband development program within thirty (30) days to the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, Governor, Legislative Council or the Joint Budget Committee should the General Assembly be in session, and the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology.
- Coordinate with the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Office to provide mapping information to the Arkansas Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI) for the preparation of legal descriptions and digital mapping for the relevant incorporated or unincorporated areas.
- A local entity that has been awarded a state or federal grant or loan shall provide information concerning broadband mapping to the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Office in compliance with the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Office Policy Statement PS-01, Arkansas Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI) Data Loading and Retirement Procedures.
- Report the status of any awarded federal grant or loan for a broadband development program to UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation within nine (9) months of the federal grant or loan award.
Due Date and Submission Information
Accepted on a rolling basis beginning the date of the NOFO release and continuing until funds are exhausted. For online applications, please apply online.
For paper applications, please submit the original and two copies:
UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation
c/o: Rural Broadband ID Application
Attn: Roy Kitchen
4301 W. Markham St. Slot 519
Little Rock, AR 72205
Expected Award Dates
Awarded on a first-come, first-reviewed basis. Applicants should expect to learn of their funding status one month following submission.
If you have questions, please email IDHI@uams.edu
A written response will be posted on the Frequently Asked Questions page within seven (7) days of receipt of your question.