One of the big questions on the minds of those tasked with executing the FCC’s mandate to convert land mobile radio systems that operate below 512 MHz to 12.5 MHz-wide channels (or equivalent) — from the current 25 kHz-wide channels — a process known popularly as “narrowbanding,” concerns where to find the money for the project. According to Dr. Chris Gilmore, a grant-writing consultant with Gilmore-Tragus Strategies, plenty of money is available.

“There is a lot of money out there, and someone is going to get it,” said Gilmore, who offered numerous tips last week during an Urgent Communications narrowbanding webinar. “Those who persevere and plan ahead are the people who are going to get it.”

However, no one will get money specifically for a narrowbanding project, he said. Rather, the migration must be part of a larger plan. “It’s going to have to be part of something else that you’re involved with in your community, region or state.”

He offered an example of a small-town police department that recently came to him for help on a grant proposal for money that would be used to upgrade its dispatch system. The department is surrounded by 96 other police jurisdictions that have 72 dispatch systems among them, but none were mentioned in the proposal.

“That’s not going to fly if you’re looking for money. … You have to look holistically, you have to collaborate and you have to reach out beyond where you’ve gone before, “ Gilmore said.

Gilmore advised that when attempting to justify why the grant money is needed, it’s not enough to say that you don’t have any for the project.

“Everybody doesn’t have enough money, so you’re going to have to dig deeper on that question,” he said. “I guarantee the fatal flaw of most [failed grant applications] is the inability to justify why they’re asking for money and why they’re unable to do the project themselves.”

Understanding the requirements that have been established by the grant entity also is vital, as is telling them what they want to hear. According to Gilmore, the guidance for the Broadband Stimulus Grants being administered by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service was very clear that public-safety projects would be low on the priority list for the $4 billion first round. But that didn’t stop many first-responder agencies from hiring consultants to help them write grant applications — which ultimately were rejected, Gilmore said.

“The golden rule is that whoever has the money makes the rules. … When you read the application and fill it out, give them what they want.”

Editor’s note: Next week, “IWCE’s Narrowbanding Initiative” will be held. It is a six-plus-hour program over three days devoted to all aspects of narrowbanding that is part of the very comprehensive conference program that is part of IWCE 2010. I urge you to attend.