Do We Really Need a $350 Million Broadband Mapping Program?

Last week, the NTIA asked the FCC to release an important database containing broadband coverage data.  The database contains information from high-speed internet providers on the areas they serve based on data collected through a required FCC form (Form 477).  This form collects information about broadband connections (among other things)  to end-user locations  in individual states.

According to a post on www.broadbandbreakfast.com, the FCC intends to release the database by December 7, 2009 unless it receives significant opposition from the carriers.  See the public notice here.

The NTIA says it wants access to the data in order to “validate the unserved or underserved classifications of the BTOP applicants’ proposed funded service areas,” although it also vows to protect certain confidential “trade secret” information to the degree it is able.

This request raises certain “chicken and egg” questions with regards to validating “underserved areas”–the focus of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).  $350 million was originally allocated to create and maintain a comprehensive national broadband map.  This, in theory, would tell NTIA strategist where to focus efforts and resources.

However, the mapping project will not be completed until late 2010 (or later).  And the NTIA must publish a national broadband strategy plan by the first quarter of 2010.  As such, the NTIA is seeking to rely on this FCC/carrier information to help guide its decisions.

This means, either the NTIA will be making national broadband strategy decisions based on grossly incomplete information, or it will receive sufficient information on coverage from the carriers through this database and the $350 million is an unnecessary expense.  Either conclusion puts the NTIA in a difficult spot.

It will be interesting to see how the carriers respond to this request.  And it will be even more interesting to see what the NTIA decides to fund early in the new year.  Stay tuned for new developments as they arise.

All the best,

-Lorin

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Will “Green” Mean Greenbacks for Government Contractors?

report released yesterday by the United Nations Environment Program (at the G20 Summit) shows the U.S. lagging behind other key countries in the percentage of stimulus dollars spent on green initiatives.  The report examines the various economic stimulus plans of key nations and the percentage of dollars spent for green programs. 

According to the findings, the U.S. has allocated 12% of total stimulus dollars to “greening the economy.”  This compares to 79% for the Republic of Korea and 34% for China (the green market for China has recently been estimated to be $1 trillion).  Mexico has allocated 10%. 

Even with the allocation, criticism is rising regarding the pace of green spending.  A post on ProPublica’s site points out that most of the 16 states surveyed by the General Accounting Office have not yet started on their Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP), a $5 billion program for assisting low-income families in lowering utility bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  Similar delays have been reported for public housing according to the article. 

The U.N. report also concludes that only 3% of global green funds have actually been spent.  The bulk of these expenditures will occur in 2010 and 2011.

IMPLICATIONS

For certain government contractors, green initiatives are likely to provide attractive market potential in the areas of clean technologies, renewable energies, water services, green transportation, waste management, green buildings (both new and retrofit) and sustainable agriculture.  Don’t let the U.S.’s smaller relative percentage allocation fool you–substantial dollars are coming for this. 

The challenge from a contractor’s perspective will be in achieving differentiation as flowing money will bring “green contractors” out of the woodwork.  Much of this will go to mega-projects such as high-speed rail, but there should also be substantial opportunity at the SMB level for the right vendors. 

It appears to us that “green” is moving from a passing social fad to a significant global business opportunity.

-Lorin

ARRA Grant Recipient Registration Site Open

Recipients of ARRA funds are now able to register with the government.  Starting yesterday, state and local governments, contractors, etc. receiving a grant of $25,000 or more through the Recovery Act can register at www.FederalReporting.gov.   This registration process is the first step to fulfilling reporting requirements, a process that begins officially October 1.  Recipients will have until October 10 to submit reports outlining things such as the amount of money received and spent, project scope, and jobs created.

Officials are reminding registering organizations they must have DUNS numbers (obtainable at www.fedgovdnb.com/webform) and be a part of the federal government’s Central Contracting Registry (CCR) database (at www.ccr.gov) prior to registering for federal reporting.

It is expected between 150,000 and 200,000 recipients will file reports by October 10 according to a RAT Board press release.

-LBB

Broadband Grant App Deadline Tomorrow

The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) grant application deadline is tomorrow.  And, according to an article on the Urgent Communicationswebsite, the volume of applicants may not be as high as originally thought.  According to the advisory arm of Alcatel-Lucent (a group geared toward helping companies apply for broadband grants), rules surrounding grants and short time frames may have inhibited potential applicants from moving forward.

Alcatel-Lucent expected 40% of the proposals it received would ultimately be submitted for grant funding.  Now it appears only 15% of these will actually result in applications.  According to Rich Wonders (great name) VP of Strategic Marketing for Alcatel-Lucent, narrow definitions and difficulty in estimating required network capacity may have deterred some companies and organizations from responding.

First round funding recipients are slated to be notified around November 7 (expect this to push out despite the reduced volume of applicants).  There are two additional rounds of funding over the next six months, though according to the article, there are rumors the remaining two could be combined into one.

-LBB

The Government Contract Sales Call

Taking a break from working on an economic stimulus grant to think about keys to success for selling to government.  Truth is, it’s not much different from selling to private business.  You need to establish credibility, understand processes, and present strong value propositions…just as you would in any selling activity.  In government markets, credibility comes from different places, the processes are almost always different, and value propositions are skewed toward delivering services and efficiency.  Otherwise, no significant differences.

Rules for the sales call are very similar, too.  Mary Scott Nabors, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. writes a handy article in her newsletter.  Summarized here:

  • Make brief credibility comments as an opening.
  • Use examples of success.
  • Exhibit energy and passion.  Don’t disparage competitors.
  • Speak for less than 20 minutes, then conduct Q&A.
  • Do not read PowerPoint presentations; speak off the cuff.
  • Show a risk-deverse offering.
  • Be genuine, credible and trustworthy.
  • Use stories when possible.
  • Establish next steps.
  • Leave succinct materials behind (with your contact info included).
  • Thank your audience for their time, and their service.

Way to go, Mary!  Your comments are right on the money.  One thing to add:  Don’t hesitate to ask your prospects questions.  Anyone else have suggestions?

Now, back to economic stimulus.  (I’d rather be making a sales presentation.)

Rick

APCO Says Broadband Eligibility Rules Unfair to Public Safety

In a post today on www.govtech.com, the article covers statements made by the Association for Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO)regarding eligibility rules for public safety agencies applying for broadband stimulus funds.  According to Richard Mirgon, the association’s president-elect, eligibility requirements for stimulus grants will exclude many public safety agencies since the law mandates network partnering with community institutions such as universities or health-care providers.  Mr. Mirgon argues that while certain partnerships may be appropriate, many will not work when sensitive or secure data is involved.  APCO will send a letter to the NTIA in the next few days requesting a rule change.

-LBB

How Far Does the U.S. Really Lag Behind Other Countries in Broadband?

America’s movement toward greater broadband capabilities is a hot issue currently.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a $7.2 billion allocation for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) with a goal of bringing broadband to “unserved” and “underserved” communities and “improving access to broadband by public safety” (watch for our upcoming blogs about the public safety part).  Commonly cited as the reason we need major investments in broadband is the United States’ ranking of 15th in the world with regards to broadband penetration–a fact that disturbs many in the country.

However, a recent report by the Technology Policy Institutes takes issue with this analysis to a degree.  It says penetration numbers should not be derived on a per-capita basis, but instead on a per-household basis.  Doing this provides a more accurate comparison across countries, and raises our ranking to somewhere around 8th in the world.  For comparison, consider telephone penetration.  Currently 95% of homes have telephones, but applying the same per-capita measures and comparing across countries, the U.S. ranks 45th in the world.  Per household is clearly the more accurate measure.

And, penetration rates are growing so rapidly, it is likely they will reach saturation points in the next few years.  So does this mean all of the excitement (and money) surrounding BTOP is for naught?

IMPLICATIONS

Not necessarily.  It does help guide where money should be spent, however.  While certainly infrastructure investments are needed in communities where this is lacking, generally speed, applications and other collaborative initiatives that foster greater internet adoption should receive the greatest amount of attention. 

For example, this same study showed the U.S. lagging behind most wealthy nations–not in penetration–but in speed.  At a roughly estimated average of just over 4 kbps, the U.S. ranks between 12th and 15th in speed depending on the source used. 

Development of IP-based applications (which inherently drive greater broadband adoption) is also a needed area of focus.  Software as a Service (SaaS) (delivering software applications on-demand over the internet) is still in its infancy, yet has tremendous potential for growth and adoption.  So are possibilities for connecting public agencies with private commercial entities within community “anchor institutions” such as libraries, schools, etc..  This also increases adoption–possibly from population segments who do not currently value it.

Overall, the U.S. may be in somewhat better position than some claim, but we clearly do not lead the world in broadband.  Policymakers should take into account the real barriers and gaps in the market, creating incentives for right approaches, while not erecting barriers for factors that are working well.

-LBB