Federal grants for rural broadband are difficult to obtain. There can be a significant amount of paperwork and red tape to contend with. As Wernher von Braun, the father of modern rocketry once said, “Conquering the Universe one has to solve two problems: gravity and red tape. We could have mastered gravity.”
Fortunately, obtaining a federal grant for rural broadband is easier than landing to the moon! However, it still requires enough effort that some WISPs dedicate staff, or even a team, to the application process.
Federal Grants: Giving and Receiving
One consideration is that an “in-kind” contribution is typically required from grant recipients. Michael, the President of a Virginia WISP, explains that:
“We did manage to win a federal grant for a 1M fiber project. This required a 50/50 match, but was nonetheless lucrative. Beyond this initial deployment, we’ll eventually build wireless off the fiber backbone, leading to additional growth opportunities with new customers in the surrounding areas. Now we’ve got our sights set on another 2M grant, which would be a hybrid deployment of both fiber and wireless.
“Something to understand about grants at any level is that there is always an expectation for some skin in the game. All grants require ‘in kind’ support, and at the federal level it can be higher. However, this can be in the form of labor, materials, or cash. WISPs shouldn’t go after grants expecting a full hand out.”
CAF Phase III Opportunity
Among current federal grant possibilities, the CAF Fund deserves special attention. CAF Phase I ended in 2015, and Phase II ended in 2018, but a Phase III with funds in excess of 2B is projected for 2021/2022 time frame, although nothing is set in stone. David LaFuria from Lukas, LaFuria, Gutierrez & Sachs, LLP covers this CAF timeline and other important grant details in his presentation entitled Broadband Grant, Loan, and Subsidy Programs - 2019, presented by the Wireless Internet Providers Association (WISPA).
Decide on Your Growth
Federal grant applications require a special effort, but as also noted above, they can provide huge wins. Securing a grant on this order can propel your business forward for years to come.
For more info on the topic of securing CAF and other rural broadband federal grants, download our WISP Guide 2019 today!