The Kansas Office of Broadband Development (KOBD) is launching the Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity (LINC) program, which is a multi-faceted effort to improve broadband infrastructure, middle mile connectivity, and Internet Exchange Point capabilities within the State of Kansas.
“The investment in Kansas’ broadband infrastructure has been a top priority for me to deliver to the people of Kansas since day one. No one in our state should be without the means to connect to the world – whether it be for business, education or quality-of-life purposes – and this new grant program will help ensure that it happens.”Governor Laura Kelly
Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity (LINC)
KOBD is launching the Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity (LINC) program which is a multi-faceted effort to improve Broadband Infrastructure, Internet Exchange Point and Middle Mile connectivity capabilities within the State of Kansas. Through this program, applications will be solicited, and grants will be awarded for the three capabilities listed within the two sections shown below. Separate sections outlined within this document will describe the solutions being requested, program guidelines and application requirements for each capability as documented below:
Applications will be accepted for any or all capabilities as outlined in section one and two of the program guidelines. Each application will be evaluated on its own merit. Service providers may submit multiple applications, specifically for Section 1 (Broadband Infrastructure) given specific geographic considerations for each type of application in these categories. Section 2 (Internet Exchange Point and Middle Mile Solutions) is a combined capability where an applicant may apply for either Middle Mile or Internet Exchange Point or for both capabilities. KOBD may choose to award grants to both capabilities or any one capability depending on the compelling information provided by the applicant pool.
All questions posed during the Informational Webinar will be responded to on the KOBD website in a FAQ format.
Please do not resubmit questions asked during the Informational Program Webinar. All questions going forward should be submitted using the “Program Question Form button below.
Applicants may submit questions for the first two weeks of the application window, as shown below:
The LINC program is intended to address the following priorities:
Adoption goes beyond access to high-speed internet and speaks to the ability of individuals and communities to harness access for quality-of-life implications. These efforts may include digital literacy training, low-income assistance programs (for equipment and/or broadband service), partnerships with co-working or entrepreneurship organizations, awareness or marketing campaigns, service provision to community anchor institutions and/or additional programing, and other programs designed to meet the needs of the local community.
At the time of application submission, the applicant must demonstrate available cash reserves in an account(s) of the applicant equal to at least the required amount specified in the sliding scale match table. Matching funds must be used solely for the Project and shall not include any financial assistance from federal sources unless there is a federal statutory exception specifically authorizing the federal financial assistance to be considered as such. An applicant must provide evidence of its ability to comply with this requirement in its application (www.ecfr.gov).
Broadband or high-speed internet access allows users to access the internet and internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through “dial-up” services. Broadband speeds vary significantly depending on the technology and level of service ordered. For additional information, visit the source of this information: Getting Broadband Q&A | Federal Communications Commission (fcc.gov).
Any funds provided by sources other than the applicant such as local, county, and eligible state programs or other contributors.
Community Anchor Institution
Community anchor institution means schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, community colleges and other institutions of higher education, and other community support organizations and agencies that provide outreach, access, equipment, and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations, including low-income, unemployed, and the aged (www.usac.org).
Covered populations include aging individuals, incarcerated individuals, other than individuals who are incarcerated in a Federal correctional facility; veterans; individuals with disabilities; individuals with a language barrier, including individuals who (i) are English learners; and (ii) have low levels of literacy; individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group; and individuals who primarily reside in a rural area.
Economically Distressed Community
An area is economically distressed if it has a per capita income of 80 percent or less of the national average, or if it has an unemployment rate that is, for the most recent 24-month period for which data are available, at least one (1) percent greater than the national average unemployment rate. The Kansas counties meeting this definition are in the table below:
Economically Distressed Counties in Kansas
The counties listed above can also be found at the Stats America website via http://www.statsameri-ca.org/distress/distress.aspx using the five-year threshold.
The physical linking of two networks for the mutual exchange of traffic on non-discriminatory terms and conditions.
Internet Exchange Facility
Physical infrastructure through which internet service providers and content delivery networks exchange internet traffic between their networks.
Last mile refers to the network infrastructure that carries signals from the network to and from the end-user premise. Depending on the network design and density of the area served, the actual distance of the last mile can be relatively short or maybe considerably longer than a mile.
Middle mile refers to the portion of the telecommunications network that connects a network operator’s core network to the local network (last mile) plant. Middle mile facilities provide fast, large-capacity connections ranging from a few miles to a few hundred miles.
A formal relationship between two or more parties that enter into an agreement for the sake of advancing broadband enablement.
An applicant’s proposal to serve qualifying broadband speeds to unserved areas.
Required Applicant Match
The percentage of funds required by the applicant for the program.
The capacity to change the size or scale of the broadband architecture to achieve substantially higher speeds (up to 10 Gbps) with minimal to no investment.
A measure to determine the contribution level required by the State of Kansas based on cost per location passed.
Assistance program applicants are enrolled in to assist with the monthly cost of services. Federal programs include the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), or Lifeline.
For purposes of the LINC Broadband Infrastructure Program, an unserved area is defined as a designated geographic area in which households or businesses are without a fixed, terrestrial connection supporting at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds.
Q. If a project has just begun and is already under construction, is it ineligible for this grant process?
A. Any project already started prior to this grant program would be ineligible for this grant.
Q. Will Kansas prioritize the grant applications it receives for this program, and if so, how?
A. Yes. In trying to ensure that every Kansas resident has access to broadband, our first priority is to focus on grant applications that will serve households and businesses in unserved areas. This is defined as a designated geographic area in which households or businesses are without a fixed, terrestrial connection supporting at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds.
Q. Can a government/business partnership be considered eligible?
A. Public/Private partnerships are welcome and encouraged.
Q. When is the last possible date to enter applications?
A. The last day to submit an application will be Monday, June 19 at 5 PM CST. The earlier it is submitted the quicker we can review the information. If there is a delay to the start, we will adjust the dates.
Q. Please clarify, did you say you will review applications as they are received? Or wait until the deadline to begin evaluating the applications?
A. Applications will be reviewed as soon as they are received.
Q. How will they work the window if not everyone submits at the same time?
A. The earlier it is submitted the quicker we can review the information. All applications will receive equal consideration through the 6-week application window.
Q. What time of day is the official deadline for submission on Monday, June 19?
A. 5 PM CST.
Q. Are we able to submit multiple applications?
A. Multiple applications are allowed. If you intend to do so, please let us know which of them is ranked #1, #2 etc.
Q. If we submitted an application for CPF Broadband Infrastructure Program that was not funded, can we resubmit for LINC Broadband Infrastructure Program?
A. Applications submitted in the CPF Infrastructure Program that meet or are modified to meet the LINC Infrastructure Program Guidelines are eligible for re-submission. KOBD acknowledges that a re-scoping of the application may need to occur.
Q. Would you rather see a project that includes a small community and a rural area as one application or keep those separate in two applications. Jade mentioned keeping the higher cost areas for this program and more populated areas for BEAD.
A. Either way is acceptable.
Q. Do we have to submit all documents at once? Specifically, if a community wants to invest in our project but it needs council/commission approval, the 6-week timeline may be difficult.
A. If an applicant is in a situation requiring council/commission approval, it is recommended an application be submitted and let us know that more information will be coming. That way an initial program review can take place and we will then connect with the applicant to discuss any missing or delayed information such as described in this question.
Q. I assume you are using the “Submittable” system for applications? Is the “one at a time” restriction still there, or can we work on multiple applications at the same time?
A. This is a function that is inherent to Submittable. A team can collaborate on one project but only one project submission can be open for the responsible persons login. However, if you set up multiple email addresses for an end user, you could theoretically have multiple submissions going.
-For example, I could create multiple email addresses and monitor those boxes, i.e., [email protected], [email protected], etc. When creating the submission, create a different login/email address for each project you wish to have open at once. This should allow you to work on multiple project submissions at the same time.
Q. Is there a scoring criterion?
A. The application is divided into three areas and will have an overall “weighting” per area as follows: Approximately 50% will based on technical components, approximately 15% on financial components and approximately 35% on project components. Please refer to the posted guideline document for a more definitive breakdown of the sub-parts for each area.
Q. Is there any guidance that can be provided when submitting confidential information?
A. Anything an applicant marks as Confidential and Proprietary will not be posted. If we have questions about the material, we will initiate a discussion with the applicant prior to posting any documentation.
Q. Will public comment challenges be announced?
A. We will work with the applicant and challenger to come to a resolution for each challenge that is received.
Q. If a proposed project partially infringes on an area already served with 100/20 Mbps (as found during a challenge process), would the entire application be rejected, or would the applicant have a chance to redraw their proposed project area?
A. We would give the applicant the opportunity to resubmit their application so their proposed project would not cause an over-build into an area already served at 100/20 Mbps.
Q. Would you happen to have a copy of the presentation today or will it be posted on the website?
A. The entire webinar and PowerPoint slides will be posted on the KOBD web page upon rendering.
Q: How did the State of Kansas determine that $60 per month for qualifying broadband service is an affordable price point?
A: The White House Broadband Summit established $60 per month as an affordable goal for service providers to achieve. Service providers will be measured against this goal within the LINC Program.
Q. If we have further questions about anything on this grant program, who do we send our questions to for a response.
A. Use this email for all LINC Infrastructure questions: [email protected]. The question will be directed to someone to log, review and then respond.
Q. Are the staff labor costs to prepare the grant an eligible cost?
A. No. Grant preparation staff costs are not eligible expenses. Please see the posted guideline document for eligible and ineligible costs.
Q. For the Broadband Infrastructure program and the sliding scale match, what are some determining factors in where an applicant might land in that range?
A. Cost per location passed is the determining factor. There is a calculator in the guidelines to assist in determining this match.
Q. Are you accepting in kind match as a part of the % match?
A. Yes, up to 50% can be in-kind for the Broadband Infrastructure and Middle Mile programs match. In-kind match can be up to 100% of the applicant match for the IXP program.
Q. Will county ARPA funds be allowed to be used as part of the match?
Q: Are long-term capital asset purchases an eligible grant expense?
A: Making a long-term capital asset purchase ineligible prevents providers from assigning the entire cost of a large ticket item solely against the total project cost. If allowed, this would enable long-term capital asset purchases that have a useful life well beyond the grant period to be used for other projects not receiving funding from KOBD, which is not the intent of the program. Use and cost of the long-term capital asset during the project period would be an eligible cost as long there’s supporting documentation providing that this is the most cost-effective method of procuring and using the capital asset to complete the project scope. However, this approach must be approved by KOBD prior to long-term capital asset allocation inclusion.
Q. Would you please further define what you are looking for under “operational validation plan” in the technical project plan and milestones template?
A. For the “Operational Validation Plan”, that would be a process for your company to ensure there is some kind of a checklist that allows you to ensure all items needed to make the network operational have been completed. Some ISP’s call this an “Inspection and Acceptance” process. It could include items such as: Inspecting splice closures to ensure no leaks, cable and wire continuity tests to ensure no missing connections, check network interface devices or any other work a sub-contractor may have done to ensure compliance with their contract, and ensure the as-built drawings are updated etc.
Q. Can you explain what having 100/20 Mbps speeds “enabled” means when viewing areas covered under LINC Infrastructure with fixed wireless internet?
A. Having 100/20 Mbps speeds “enabled” means that each location within the service area is capable of receiving/delivering at least 100/20 Mbps service and the provider is able to fulfill service order for at least 100/20 Mbps within 10 business days of initial service request.
Q: What happens if the FCC Broadband Data Collection Service Availability Information from December 31, 2022 is released after application window closes.
A: KOBD will use the FCC Broadband Data Collection service availability information from December 31, 2022 if it becomes available before or during the application evaluation window and does not impact the overall award timeline.
Q: This slide shows no price freeze, but the other guidelines mention a $60 price threshold. How long is the $60 price threshold required to be maintained?
A: The $60 per month for 100Mb speeds is a suggestion that stems from two sources: 1) The broadbandnow.com state ranking methodology for broadband access uses a criterion of $60 to designate affordable broadband service. The availability of this price point throughout the state affects our state’s ranking and is considered a strong source for affordability benchmarks. 2) The White House Broadband Summit established $60 per month as an affordable goal for service providers to achieve.
Service providers will be measured against this goal within the LINC program but will not be required to maintain this threshold. There is not a time frame required but the preference is 100/20 or 100/100 at a rate of $60 per month for a reasonable amount of time. Should the applicant be selected for an interview, the applicant will be asked to define what a reasonable amount of time is during the interview.
Q: On the application, if a company can provide higher speeds than 100/20 will this improve your chances?
A: Yes, higher speeds will have a greater preference. Scalability to speed targets as listed in the program guidelines will also be given a preference.
Q: How are you looking at funding other technologies when systems such as wireless aren’t scalable to 10Gbs?
A: Other technologies will be evaluated on the demonstrated need as mentioned and, on a case-by-case basis to ensure it is a unique circumstance and perhaps waive the 10G requirement.
Q: Pg 17. “Broadband Data Collection Fabric for the proposed project service area NAMING CONVENTION: LINC_OrgName_GeographicIdentifer_BDCFabric.xls” …..How is this different from the “Existing Broadband Service Availability Data For Proposed Service Area” on pg. 22?
A: They are the same file templates but under different naming conventions. Please use the file naming convention listed on page 22 when submitting the proposed service area data.
Q: “service providers submit their most up to date broadband coverage.” – then says ‘ The FCC BDC submission data set that should be used to populate this template is dated June 30, 2022” .. most up to date or data from June 30?
A: The FCC Broadband Data Collection Fabric service availability data may not be updated before the application evaluation window starts. KOBD desires to use the most up to date service availability data to ensure LINC applications do not propose infrastructure builds where qualifying broadband services already exist. Please provide the most up to date data so that KOBD can validate where any overlap may occur.
Q: If a middle mile project crosses the state line by 2 miles, would just the Kansas portion qualify?
A: Given that State of Kansas funding is being used to build the middle mile infrastructure, the middle mile infrastructure must reside in the State of Kansas. Funds cannot be provided for middle mile infrastructure outside the state boundaries of Kansas. As such, middle mile facilities outside Kansas geographic boundaries are not eligible for funding. However, if an end-to-end middle mile solution crosses state boundaries, the portion that is physically within Kansas geographic boundaries will be eligible for funding.
Q: On pg. 25 of the program guidelines, 5th bullet… ineligible areas include “RDOF with more than 100/20 wireline/fiber speeds enabled”. Does this mean that an RDOF area served by the RDOF winner with 100/20 wireless is eligible?
A: An RDOF area that will be served by an RDOF award winner with 100/20 Mbps wireless service who has received authorization of support is indeed eligible for funding. Specifically, KOBD does have the flexibility in this program to award grants in RDOF areas that have the following status: “Winning Bidder / Awarded”, “Ready To Authorize” or “Received Authorization Of Support Notice”. However, KOBD is encouraging providers to identify areas and associated location IDs that have no potential future funding opportunities and submit applications for those areas.
In the event that an application is submitted and is overlapping with the RDOF areas that are in an “Winning Bidder/Awarded”, “Ready To Authorize” or “Received Authorization Of Support Notice” status, KOBD will still evaluate the application. Given the anticipated oversubscription rate for the LINC Program, funding priority will be given to unserved areas where there are no potential funding opportunities or grants already awarded. As stated in the LINC Program webinar, there are a few criteria in which KOBD would consider funding an application that is overlapping an RDOF area:
Given the criteria for funding such an application, KOBD does not preclude an award from being made in these areas. However, KOBD would expect very few applications to be awarded with RDOF area overlap given the significant number of areas that are in need of broadband services that are not currently targeted with other potential future funding opportunities.
Q: How do we know for sure the BDC map is correct or not as it shows some regulated areas that are FTTH as not being served?
A: KOBD is using the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection Service Availability data and is presumed to be accurate until the data is proven otherwise. If the data is suspected to be inaccurate, KOBD recommends the applicant use FCC’s challenge process to resolve any disputes. However, if there is concern that the map is inaccurate for application submission or public comment submission is not accurate, surveys / speed tests of proposed projects areas can be used to refute the data, as outlined in the guidelines.
Q: Will KOBD provide KMZ maps of previous grant awards (Acceleration Year 1, Acceleration Year 2, and CPF) so applicants do not include these in their applications?
A: KOBD will provide .kmz maps of previous grant awards areas for the Acceleration 2.0 and CPF programs. No maps will be provided for CERG and Acceleration 1.0 as those footprints are in service and should already be reflected in the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection service availability information.
Q: Do you have a recommended data sources for targeted populations discussed early in the webinar?
A: Yes, please see the hyperlink below that will direct you to a PowerBI site that showcases digital equity gaps for Kansas, in addition to all 50 states.
Q: Do we need to update all our CPF letters of support for a proposed area, especially if there has been no other funding awarded for that area?
A: No, CPF letters of support do not need to be updated if submitted in the prior CPF program. However, for any co-investment commitments that were made within previous letters of support, those letters will need to be updated to reflect any changes in co-investment commitments.
Q: My question is regarding RDOF as it relates to the LINC program. In the final guidelines for the LINC program, RDOF is mentioned (emphasis added):
I am looking to clarify this terminology. My questions:
1. Do “awarded” and “certified awards” as noted above refer to those applicants who have achieved either “Ready to Authorize” (as currently updated 12/16/2022) or “Authorized” (as currently updated 1/13/2023) status?
If the answer to #1 above is no to both categories:
2.1. What FCC status would be considered “awarded” or “certified awards”?
2.2. Would any census blocks defaulted (as currently updated 12/15/2022) be eligible for LINC?
A: Thank you for your questions regarding the KOBD LINC grant program. The following answers are provided to clarify the RDOF references made on page 11 and on page 25 in the program guidelines:
1. Referencing the page 11 verbiage “Areas that have been awarded RDOF funds will be considered eligible if:”. In this context, “areas that have been awarded RDOF funds” is defined as having a status of “Winning Bidder/Awarded”, “Ready To Authorize” or “Received Authorization Of Support Notice”.
2.1. Referencing the page 25 verbiage “Areas already receiving funding for broadband expansion from other sources are ineligible. Ineligible areas include but are not limited to: Areas with certified awards thru the FCC Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) with more than 100/20 Mbps wireline/fiber speeds enabled”. This is referencing RDOF areas with the status of “Winning Bidder/Awarded”, “Ready To Authorize” or “Received Authorization Of Support Notice” that have committed to delivering 100/20 Mbps or greater speeds using a wireline/fiber based architecture.
2.2. Any census blocks that were defaulted will be eligible for funding within the LINC program.