NTIA official clarifies grant guidelines at IWCE
States and territories should not use National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Phase 1 planning-grant dollars to fund efforts to identify potential broadband network assets and resource, an NTIA official said during the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) last week.
During a conference session on Friday morning, one speaker suggested that “one of the first steps” in the planning-grant process is to inventory assets and resources — for instance, towers and backhaul — that can be leveraged in the FirstNet nationwide network. While that important exercise will be part of the planning-grant process, it should not be done with grant money from the first phase of the NTIA process, according to NTIA program officer Lance Johnson, who was attending the session.
“Please, don’t start identifying assets yet,” Johnson said. “There will be a forum and a method to do so in the future.”
After the session, Johnson clarified to Urgent Communications that states are welcome to inventory their assets and resources at any time, but NTIA planning-grant funds distributed during Phase 1 of the program cannot be expended for data gathering. As a result, any costs associated with data gathering at this time must be funded from another source of funding and it will not be an allowable match for this program, he said.
NTIA planning-grant money can be used to fund data-gathering efforts in Phase 2 of the program, Johnson said. Phase 2 of the planning-grant program will not begin until the FirstNet board has determined what assets it wants the 56 states and territories to inventory, and how this information should be reported, he said.
In addition, Johnson clarified that grant regulations dictate that states and territories that already have expended money to execute tasks outlined in the planning-grant process — for instance, establishing a governance structure and a point of contact to interact with FirstNet — cannot use planning grants to retroactively reimburse jurisdictions for these efforts. In such situations, Johnson said states and territories should consider using the planning-grant funds to enhance education and outreach efforts to potential user groups.
Planning-grant applications from all 56 states and territories are due to the NTIA tomorrow.