The Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund is bringing much-needed cash to broadband projects throughout the Commonwealth.
The funding for this program comes from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Its first funding round recently wrapped up, which doled out $89.6 million in grants to 30 counties and impacted more than 34,000 households.
Only a small portion of this first round of funding reached Eastern Kentucky. The second funding round is about to open, making another $182.8 million in grant funding available — twice the original amount.
We can’t let this opportunity pass us by. Eastern Kentucky towns and counties must fight for these funds.
This next application round will be just as competitive. We must work collaboratively to succeed, use every available resource, and follow published best practices for broadband grant applications.
The round 2 application will open soon. But don’t wait for the portal to launch — you should take action today to prepare for submitting a competitive application.
Kentucky Broadband Deployment Grant Fund information
The Kentucky Capital Projects Fund will make $182.8 million available for awards, prioritizing (in descending order):
- “No service” addresses
- “Unserved” addresses with connection speeds under 25/3 Mbps
- “Underserved” addresses with connection speeds under 100/20 Mbps
The proposed broadband project must meet or exceed 100/100 Mbps symmetrical speeds, show consideration of service affordability, and be operational by December 21, 2026.
The proposed service area must demonstrate continuous participation in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
These funds may not duplicate any other enforceable funding commitments.
The priority will go to proposed service areas with lower densities of residences and buildings. The scoring will prioritize according to the following:
- Projects averaging 0-5 locations per route mile
- Projects averaging 5-10 locations per route mile
- Projects averaging 11+ locations per route mile
From here, scoring will prioritize areas where local, state, or federal funds are otherwise unavailable.
The scoring process will also prioritize fiber projects.
Projects can receive an award for up to 50% of the total project budget.
There are a few exceptions for projects serving high-need neighborhoods, particularly those that have faced greater hurdles in receiving last-mile broadband service. Projects that average 0-5 locations per route mile can receive up to a 70% award. Those averaging 5-10 locations per route mile can receive up to 60%.
Applicants must demonstrate a funding match from private, local government, or mixed sources.
How to prepare for round 2 of the Broadband Deployment Fund
Eastern Kentucky towns and counties must seek a grant from this upcoming second funding round. If we want to stand out from the crowd of applicants, it won’t happen just because our region is in need.
Our community leaders must prove to grantors that they’ll use these funds wisely.
You can follow these 6 proven steps to do just that. Each sets a foundation for long-term project success. Put them together, and you’ll have the evidence to submit a competitive broadband grant application.
1. Form a fiber board
A fiber board is a group of community stakeholders committed to overseeing the successful implementation of broadband for one or many towns and counties.
Broadband projects are complex. A fiber board may increase your chances of seeing it through to the finish, especially if you select members with skills that complement every major step of the process.
Make sure your board is broadly representative. Work together to identify your vision and goals early on, and build out timelines to which you can hold each other accountable.
2. Survey community needs and assets
This step addresses the tactical preparations necessary to develop your broadband implementation plan. It’s the perfect moment to build a comprehensive understanding of how your community is faring today.
Assess where coverage is strongest and weakest. A map that visualizes this information will be valuable as the project moves forward. You should plan to create one.
You’ll also need to hire a contractor to perform a feasibility study, which will be crucial to determining your budget, best-fit approach, and implementation plan.
3. Assemble a plan
After concluding the discovery period, it’s time to formalize your plans. Your fiber board should work together to identify the best path forward.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Many grants favor projects supporting households and facilities experiencing the greatest need.
- Long-term sustainability and service affordability should be top of your priority list.
- Some grants will favor certain types of implementation methods over others. For example, the USDA is elevating its focus on partnerships with electric cooperatives to reduce implementation costs and complexity and keep network ownership within the community.
- Partnering with other towns and counties may increase the strength of your application.
Be sure to consult the Last Mile Guide as a guiding resource.
4. Estimate costs
Every grant application will require you to list a requested amount. It’ll also ask you to justify that amount with details surrounding your project budget.
As you assemble your plan, make sure you account for all costs:
- Project costs: Work through installation, materials, operations, and administration requirements.
- End user costs: Prove that service will be affordable to customers, a requirement of most grants.
5. Form partnerships
Broadband installation projects rely on public and private partnerships. Selecting a public-private partnership model is one of your most important decisions as a fiber board.
One such model aligns a fiber board with an electric cooperative for installation, as mentioned in step 3, which tends to show favorable outcomes for long-term sustainability and service affordability. Some grant programs will add points to projects employing this approach.
6. Seek funding
The previous 5 steps will prepare you for project success. The 6th and final step considers the strategies behind effective grant applications.
Plan to dedicate a significant amount of your board’s time and effort toward creating your applications. Don’t leave it to the last minute.
A well-thought-through application will make its case with data. Set aside the time to collect, analyze, and place data into a storyline that aligns with the grant’s purpose and requirements.
SOAR provides numerous funding support resources for Eastern Kentucky applicants. We’ve already mentioned the Last Mile Guide. Also, be sure to download our free eBook, Getting Funded: The 2022 Manual for Writing & Winning Broadband Grants. It walks you through the grant application process, step by step, to help you increase your chances of earning those much-needed funds.
Contact SOAR for broadband grant support
SOAR is here to help you navigate the complexities of project planning and grant applications.
Once you develop your application materials, reach out to our team of experts. We’ll provide feedback based on our extensive experience with state and federal grants.
Stay tuned to SOAR’s social media channels to find out when the next Kentucky Broadband Deployment Grant Funding round opens.