Connected Care Pilot Program Application Window Now Open

2020-11-12T13:56:45-05:00November 12, 2020|e-Lerts|

Last week, the FCC announced the opening of the Connected Care Pilot Program, which distributes $100 million in grants to health care providers to provide telehealth services to patients (see our September 14, 2020, e-Lert for more details). The program covers 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide the connected care services. Applications are due December 7, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Eligible non-profit or public health care providers located in rural and non-rural areas that fall within the categories in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Telecommunications Act may apply for the program. Funds will be provided for:

  • Patient broadband Internet access services, which includes new or upgraded broadband connections;
  • Health care provider broadband data connections;
  • Connected care information services; and
  • Network equipment necessary to make a supported broadband service functional.

The program does not fund devices, including end-user connected devices; medical equipment; health care provider administrative costs; or personnel costs and other miscellaneous expenses. It also will not cover network deployment, the construction of networks between health care providers, or connectivity services between health care provider sites.

JSI can provide you with information to share with health care providers in your area who are interested in participating in the pilot program. If you have any questions about the program or would like JSI to assist your health care customers, please contact Terri DeLong in JSI’s Texas office at 512-338-0473 or Chresanthe Staurulakis in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

USDA Opens Its FY2021 Community Connect Grant Competition

2021-04-05T14:55:54-04:00October 1, 2020|e-Lerts|

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced this year’s Community Connect Grant Program, which provides grants to rural areas lacking broadband speeds of at least 10/1 Mbps. Applications will be due by December 23, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Grant requests can range from $100,000 to $3 million and applicants will be required to provide a 15% match. Approximately $30 million is available for these grants. Rural areas with the greatest need for broadband services and applications will be scored based on the area’s economic characteristics, educational challenges, healthcare needs, public safety issues, stakeholder involvement, and management expertise of the applicant.

There have been a few important changes for this year’s round of applications:

  • Definition for 10/1 Mbps broadband service excludes satellite and mobile services;
  • Applications will undergo a Public Notice process to allow challenges of proposed areas that lack sufficient broadband service. Providers will have 45 days from the date the notice is published to file responses;
  • Projects funded will be subject to a “Buy American” requirement;
  • Grant funds, instead of matching funds, must be used to purchase computers and fund at least two, but not more than 10, computer access points;
  • Multiple applications may be submitted, but only the application with the highest score will be selected;
  • Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) provisions apply to projects located within trust land (as defined in section 3765 of title 38, United States Code); and
  • Additional reporting requirements will apply to any awarded project.

USDA also launched a new portal to accept this year’s round of applications. The new application portal will streamline and provide:

  • One common platform to draw the proposed service area and upload application documents;
  • Mapping functionality across telecom programs;
  • Timely submission of application; and
  • Ability for applicants to work on multiple applications simultaneously.

JSI has years of experience assisting companies develop successful federal grant applications like this one. If you are thinking about applying for the upcoming Community Connect broadband grant, we have many resources that can help simplify the application process for you. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how we can assist with your application, please reach out to Lans Chase at 770-569-2105 or Valerie Wimer at 301-459-7590.

JSI Applauds Connect Illinois Grant Winners

2020-07-02T16:28:27-04:00July 2, 2020|News|

JSI congratulates the winners of the recently awarded Connect Illinois Broadband Grants. JSI assisted several companies with their applications, helping them win nearly $11 million in funding to construct state-of-the-art broadband networks in unserved and underserved communities in Illinois:

  • Allpoint NetworX’s $2.7 million grant will allow it to deploy up to 1Gb broadband to 926 premises, specifically 846 unserved households and 80 unserved businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions, located in Bond County and a portion of Madison County.
  • Grafton Technologies, Inc. will use its $1.5 million grant build a fiber network to serve 460 unserved households and 124 unserved businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions in parts of Jersey County, including a low-income community considered an opportunity zone which requires long-term investment and job creation.
  • Illinois Fiber Connect, LLC’s $4.9 million grant will help pay for a broadband network that will serve a total of 844 premises, specifically 755 unserved households and 89 unserved businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions in Effingham County.
  • Wabash Telephone’s $1.6 million grant will serve 659 unserved households, businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions in parts of Clay County with 24 miles of fiber cable.

This first round of Connect Illinois grants provided $50 million to expand of high-speed Internet in Illinois. Applicants were eligible for up to $5 million per project and they are required to provide a non-state funding match of at least 50%. Illinois plans to issue another round of grants in the program later this year.

Our 100% success rate in the Illinois Connect Grant program builds upon JSI’s recent success in state and federal broadband grant programs. More than 60% of the companies that worked with JSI on their applications in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program won more than $150 million in grants and loans. JSI has also helped companies win grants in Michigan and Indiana.

With our record of clear success, JSI is ready to help broadband providers pursue critical broadband funding. Our depth allows us to help applicants with all aspects of state and federal grant applications, including mapping of potential funding areas, preparing the required financials, performing a competitive analysis of the potential areas, and shepherding clients through the full application process.

If your company is interested in applying for a broadband program in your state or for one of the federal programs, please contact Valerie Wimer or Cassandra Heyne at 301-459-7590 or Lans Chase at 770-569-2105.

CARES Act Telehealth Funding Opportunities Available

2020-05-11T15:39:21-04:00May 11, 2020|e-Lerts|

JSI Creates Pamphlet to Use in Educating Healthcare and Educational Customers

In the recently passed CARES Act, Congress recognized the importance of providing additional funding for rural healthcare and educational institutions. Specifically, the Act provides funding for four programs: COVID-19 Telehealth, Telehealth Network Grants, Distance Learning and Telemedicine, and the Connected Care Pilot. These new funding opportunities will not only benefit healthcare providers, schools and libraries, but also broadband providers to the extent that their services are requested by institutions receiving funding.

To assist clients in obtaining a better understanding of these programs, this e-Lert provides an overview of each program, key dates and the amount of funding available, as well as the extent to which your company can be involved in assisting your healthcare and educational customers to obtain this funding. We also have developed a pamphlet that provides more detailed information that you can share with local healthcare and educational institution customers who might be interested in obtaining funding from one or more of the programs.

If you would like a copy of the pamphlet, have any questions about the programs, or would like JSI to assist your healthcare and/or educational customers where such assistance is allowed, please contact Terri Delong in JSI’s Texas office at 512-338-0473 or Chresanthe Staurulakis in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

 

COVID-19 Telehealth Program

Agency: FCC

Application Date: Applications accepted starting April 13, 2020

Purpose: To help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding Available: $200 million is available. The FCC does not anticipate awarding more than $1 million to any single applicant, but applicants may request additional support after exhausting initially awarded funding.

Eligible Costs: Funding is available to cover any telecommunications services, information services and/or connected monitoring devices purchased on or after March 13, 2020, and necessary to provide critical connected care services for treatment of COVID-19 or other health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding also is available for services that require monthly recurring charges, such as broadband connectivity or remote patient monitoring services, through September 30, 2020.

Eligible Applicants: Nonprofit and public eligible health care providers that fall within the categories of health care providers in Section 254(h)(7)(B) of the 1996 Telecom Act. Rural and non-rural eligible healthcare providers that purchased telecommunications services, information services, and/or devices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic after March 13, 2020, may apply. Health care providers seeking to participate must obtain an eligibility determination from USAC for each health care provider site that they include in their application.

Restrictions on Assistance: Vendors of eligible services and devices are not eligible for funding. However, eligible health care providers will select the specific eligible services and devices, as well as the vendors for those services and devices, before applying.

 

Telehealth Network Grant Program

Agency: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Service Administration

Application Date: Applications due June 15, 2020

Purpose: To promote rural tele-emergency services by enhancing telehealth networks to deliver 24-hour emergency department consultation services via telehealth to rural providers without emergency care specialists.

Funding Available: $8.7 million, with up to $300,000 per year for up to 29 grants, subject to availability of funds.

Period of Performance: September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2024 (4 years)

Eligible Costs: Direct costs, indirect costs (up to 15% of total award and limited to specific activities), facilities costs and administrative costs.

Eligible Applicants: Rural or urban non-profit entities that will provide direct clinical services through a telehealth network are eligible. Faith-based, community-based and tribal-based organizations are eligible. While applicants may be located in an urban area, services must be provided to rural areas.

Restrictions on Assistance: Award dollars may be used to pay for transmission costs, such as the cost of broadband or telecommunications directly related to the purposes of the project. However, Telehealth Network Grant Program network members must either (a) first apply for USAC’s Rural Health Care Program to obtain lower transmission rates, or (b) document why it is not applicable. Therefore, RHC Program rules and restrictions apply.

 

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program

Agency: RUS

Application Date: April 14, 2020 – July 13, 2020

Purpose: To increase rural access to education, training and healthcare resources that are otherwise unavailable or limited in scope.

Funding Available: $25 million, with a minimum grant amount of $50,000 and a maximum grant amount of $1 million. A minimum 15% match, in cash or in kind, is required.

Period of Performance: 3 years

Eligible Costs: (i) Any project to acquire, by lease or purchase, eligible equipment; (ii) any project to acquire instructional programming; (iii) any project to provide technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment. Eligible equipment and facilities include broadband transmission facilities (limited to only 20% of grant), computer hardware and software, audio and video equipment, computer networking components, telecommunications terminal equipment, terminal equipment, inside wiring, interactive video equipment, land, buildings, or building construction needed to carry out an eligible distance learning or telemedicine project for loan financial assistance only.

Eligible Applicants: Most entities that provide education or healthcare through telecommunications, including (i) most State and local governmental entities; (ii) federally recognized tribes; (iii) non-profits; (iv) for-profit businesses; and (v) consortia of eligible entities. Electric or telecommunications borrowers financed through the Rural Utilities Service are eligible for grants.

Restrictions on Assistance: (1) Grant applications that are written by vendors that will be used on the project to be funded by the award will be ineligible as a violation of the competition rules in 2 CFR 200.319. Contractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, or invitations for bids or requests for proposals must be excluded from competing for procurements of equipment or services under the grant in accordance with 2 CFR 200.319. Applicants must fully understand the procurement requirements of 2 CFR 200.319 Subpart D when compiling an application for submission and must avoid use of predetermined equipment, unless they have adequately demonstrated in the application that no other equipment is available for the intended purpose; (2) The application must demonstrate matching contributions, in cash or in kind, of at least 15% of the grant amount required. Vendor matches requiring subsequent purchases, either by necessity or contract, are not permitted; (3) Equipment vendors, manufacturers, system integrators, and other businesses whose purpose in the proposal is to sell equipment or technological services to support applicants cannot themselves be applicants or affiliates of the applicant. If the grant writer for the application is paid by a vendor, manufacturer, system integrator, or other business, the vendor, manufacturer, system integrator or other business becomes an affiliate of the applicant and cannot participate in the project.

 

Connected Care Pilot Program

Agency: FCC

Application Date: TBD

Purpose: To support telehealth for and the delivery of connected care services to low-income Americans, specifically rural residents and veterans.

Period of Performance: 3 years, with separate transition periods of up to six months before and after the three-year funding period.

Funding Available: $100 million, no stated maximum grant amount or number of awarded grants.

Eligible Costs: Program will provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity (patient broadband internet access services and healthcare provider broadband data connections), network equipment for broadband connectivity, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to intended patients.

Eligible Applicants: Eligible nonprofit and public healthcare providers that fall within Section 254(h)(7)(B), regardless of whether they are rural or non-rural. However, FCC has strong preference for projects that will primarily benefit veterans or low-income individuals.

Restrictions on Assistance: The competitive bidding requirements for USAC’s Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) apply for participants in the program. Therefore, applicants will be required to follow the RHC program’s competitive bidding requirements, which include submitting a Request for Services and Request for Proposal for USAC to post on its website.

USDA Unveils $600M ReConnect Broadband Grant & Loan Program

2018-12-17T10:58:37-05:00December 17, 2018|e-Lerts|

As we informed clients in our August 6 and August 30 e-Lerts, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) plans to distribute $600 million in grants and loans via a new pilot program for rural broadband in unserved areas lacking access to at least 10/1 Mbps. On December 13, 2018, the USDA announced the program details, including a fact sheet and mapping tool to help interested parties locate eligible areas. USDA has also renamed the program which is now called the Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program or ReConnect.

Below we outline some of the key program rules and, in the coming weeks, we will host a webinar to provide further details about the ReConnect Program. Additionally, JSI is prepared to assist in all phases of the application and funding processes. If you are considering applying for funds, please contact Janee Devis in our Maryland office to be added to our ReConnect distribution list. We will provide you with updates about the program, deadline reminders, and other important information.

What Types of Entities Are Eligible:

All types of profit and not-for-profit entities, including rural telcos, WISPs, electric cooperatives, and community broadband providers, are eligible to apply. ReConnect is not restricted to those with experience in providing communications services, so we expect that the competition for funds could be intense. In addition to commercial enterprises, entities eligible to apply include states, local governments, and “any agency, subdivision, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof.” Territories and tribal authorities can also apply.

What Options are Available for Funding:

The ReConnect Program will have three category options for funding: grant-only, combination 50% grant and 50% loan, and loan-only. Up to $200 million is allocated to each category, and applicants can only apply in one category. Grant-only awards will only be considered in areas where 100% of the households lack 10/1 Mbps. Areas where there is not availability of 10/1 Mbps broadband to 90-100% of households are eligible for grant/loan and loan-only combinations. All three categories require that a minimum of 25/3 Mbps broadband is deployed.

When Applications Are Due:

Applications for the grant-only awards are due by April 29, 2019. The grant/loan applications are due by May 29, 2019. The loan-only applications are due by June 28, 2019, but will be evaluated and awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, beginning in March 2019.

What Areas Are Eligible:

Unless one of the following exceptions apply, all rural areas where there is less than 10/1 Mbps broadband are eligible for funding:

  • RUS cannot fund more than one project that serves any one geographic area. If RUS receives qualified applications that contain overlapping service areas, RUS will follow certain procedures to determine how those applications will be processed.
  • Entities that have RUS broadband loans (Telecom Infrastructure, Farm Bill Broadband, BIP loans) can apply for funding in areas where they are not currently delivering at least 10/1 Mbps if they have not defaulted on, and have materially complied with, in the sole discretion of RUS, their prior broadband loan requirements. No other entities can apply in these areas.
    • This means that in rate-of-return study areas where the provider is supported by a previous RUS broadband loan, the rate-of-return provider is the only entity that is eligible to apply for ReConnect funds.
  • Areas that should be served via a Community Connect grantee are eligible if they do not have sufficient broadband access, except for those areas where the grants are still listed as “pending.”
    • Many past Community Connect grants were only funded to 4/1 Mbps, so presumably these areas would be eligible for ReConnect funds. If you were a Community Connect grantee at a lower speed requirement, ReConnect might be a good opportunity.
  • Areas that received a 100% grant under the RUS BIP program are eligible if the BIP grantee is not already delivering at least 10/1 Mbps. However, if the applicant is the same BIP grantee, then the applicant may only request a 100% loan. Areas that have received state funding to deploy broadband at a speed of at least 10/1 Mbps are not eligible. As part of the application process, the applicant must provide a map of the proposed funded service area to the appropriate state government office, and the state government office must certify whether funds have or have not been allotted for the area.
  • In areas awarded to CAF Phase II Auction 903 winners, only the auction winner can apply for ReConnect funding, and the winner can only apply for funds from the loan-only funding category.

Stay tuned for more information from JSI about when we will host our webinar and other developments regarding the ReConnect program. For questions about the ReConnect program, eligibility, and the application process, please contact Cassandra Heyne or John Kuykendall in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590 or Lans Chase in our Georgia office at 770-569-2105.

RUS’s e-Connectivity Pilot Program to Distribute $600M for Broadband

2018-08-30T11:57:56-04:00August 30, 2018|e-Lerts|

JSI Will Be Providing Updates and Assistance to Interested Clients

As we informed clients in our August 6 e-Lert, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) plans to distribute $600 million in grants and loans via a new program called the “e-Connectivity” pilot program. The rural broadband pilot program was created as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. Funding will be targeted to rural areas where no more than 10% of residents can get 10/1 Mbps broadband. Additionally, any entity receiving funds is prohibited from overbuilding an existing RUS borrower (but can build in its own ILEC study area even if it is an RUS borrower).

RUS has begun the process of drafting rules and procedures for the funding by requesting comments in a Notice of Inquiry (NOI). Comments are due Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, by 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Although RUS is in the early stages of developing the program, we encourage clients to stay informed throughout the proceeding and file comments in matters that could impact your company’s ability to receive money from the program. Participating in advocacy efforts at this early stage is key to ensuring that the needs of your company for funding in areas lacking 10/1 are considered as the rules are being crafted.

With this in mind, JSI will be providing interested clients with updates as developments occur, including items on which comment is sought, as well as assisting companies in drafting and filing comments. After the rules and procedures have been published, JSI will assist in all phases of the application and funding processes.

Below is our first update which provides information based on our research and conversations with RUS staff and a summary of comments being sought in the NOI. If you are interested in receiving future updates on the e-Connectivity pilot program, please send an email to Janee Devis and we will add you to our distribution list.

Applicability of e-Connectivity Pilot Program to Rural Broadband Providers

The e-Connectivity pilot program has the potential to provide a much-needed influx of funding to targeted, unserved or underserved areas. In other RUS loan and grant programs, the applicant can create its own funded area that does not necessarily have to match a study area boundary – if used in the pilot program, this should encourage rate-of-return carriers (RLECs) and their affiliates to seek grants or loans in pockets of unserved areas with poor business cases. In other RUS grants, such as Community Connect, applicants draw their own funding area boundaries which are confirmed as unfunded and eligible for grants by RUS field agents. We expect a similar process to occur with the e-Connectivity pilot program.

From recent trade press, it is our understanding that RUS is considering including some funding from its broadband loan program so that projects could have a mixture of areas lacking 10/1 and 25/3 and funding with a loan-grant package. If RUS takes this approach, the agency anticipates that the amount of available funds could approach $1 billion.

Also, based on conversations with RUS staff, it is our understanding that it is considering allowing A-CAM and Legacy rate-of-return carriers with defined buildout obligations, as well as CAF Phase II auction winners, to receive funding from this program in currently unserved areas where they receive universal service support (USF) that is targeted for broadband deployment. If such an approach is adopted when the final rules are written, the pilot program would provide much-needed supplemental funding in areas where either A-CAM or CAF-BLS doesn’t cover the real costs of deploying broadband in remote areas. Regarding CAF Phase II auction winners, we have been informed that RUS is considering allowing winners to apply for funding to close the gap between the amount of their winning bid and the initial “reserve price” of the winning census block groups, assuming that the winning bid was significantly less than the reserve price.

Regardless of whether or not RUS allows funding in areas where carriers receive targeted USF, RLECs with any areas less than 10/1 within their service territories should consider participating in the pilot program. For example, RLECs that were ineligible for A-CAM support because the company had deployed broadband to at least 90 percent of the study area could use the funds to build out to what may be the most costly locations at the edges of a study area by applying for funding in just those unserved areas. Carriers electing A-CAM that had support reduced due to inadvertent clerical errors or erroneous Form 477 data filed by a competitor could also benefit by participating in the program. RUS funding also could help RLECs competitively extend services outside their study areas and facilitate new opportunities for growth and economic development. There are many possibilities, and we encourage clients to file comments if they are sought on which areas should be eligible for funding. FCC Commissioner O’Rielly and members of Congress are pushing against awarding grants in areas that already receive any USF.

As noted above, JSI will be providing future updates on the e-Connectivity pilot program to interested clients as developments occur. We are available to assist with drafting comments and evaluating opportunities once more information is released, and down the road we will help clients review and understand the application guidelines and complete their applications. For questions about the e-Connectivity pilot program, contact Cassandra Heyne or John Kuykendall in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

RUS to Make Available $600 Million in Grant and Loans

2018-08-06T16:30:38-04:00August 6, 2018|e-Lerts|

Interested Clients Should File Comments 

Earlier this year, a rural broadband pilot program was envisioned and then funded in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will distribute $600 million via a new program called the “e-Connectivity” pilot program that targets support in the form of grants and loans.  Among the conditions attached to the program is that 90% of the households served by any project funded by the program cannot currently have 10/1 Mbps broadband access.  Additionally, any entity receiving funds is prohibited from overbuilding an existing RUS borrower.

RUS has begun the process of drafting rules and procedures for the funding by requesting comments in a Notice of Inquiry (NOI). Comments are due Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, by 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Although RUS is in the early stages of developing the program, we encourage clients that have areas lacking 10/1 to participate in all comment phases. As explained below, RUS has yet to determine whether A-CAM and Legacy carriers can obtain funds for areas in which they are required to meet buildout obligations. Also, RUS is considering including its broadband loan program so that projects could have a mixture of areas lacking 10/1 and 25/3. So participation in advocacy efforts at this stage is key. If interested, please let us know if you would like our assistance in drafting comments.

The purpose of the comments on the NOI is for RUS to set some basic parameters on how to determine where to distribute the funding because the program will be focused on areas that lack 10/1. A request for comments on other items regarding the funding is expected in the Fall in a Public Notice. In this NOI, USDA seeks comment on the following specific issues:

  1. Ways of evaluating a rural household’s “sufficient access” to broadband at speeds of 10/1 Mbps, and how service affordability is factored in
  2. Best options to verify speeds of broadband service provided to rural households
  3. Best leading indicators of the potential project benefits for rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care and education, using readily available public data
  4. Methods to evaluate the viability of applications that include local utility partnership arrangements

RUS is considering adding some money from its broadband loan program to the e-Connectivity pilot program, which could increase the total budget to $1 billion for a combination of loans and grants. If this happens, it is possible that areas that lack 25/3 Mbps will be eligible for funding. Additionally, RUS interprets the law to allow A-CAM and CAF-BLS recipients to receive funds in areas where they have defined buildout obligations, which could provide much-needed supplemental funding in areas where either A-CAM or CAF-BLS just doesn’t cover the real costs of deploying broadband in remote areas.

JSI will keep you updated on developments in the e-Connectivity pilot program, and can assist with drafting comments and evaluating opportunities once more information is released. For questions about the e-Connectivity pilot program, contact John Kuykendall or Cassandra Heyne in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

Go to Top