The services of ISPs, electric co-ops, and other broadband providers are sure to be in high demand in the wake of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Broadband infrastructure professionals should be developing a thorough understanding of the responsibilities and requirements associated with the Capital Projects Fund, a plan established by the US Treasury.
The fund devotes $10 billion to respond to the public health emergency created by the Covid 19 pandemic: specifically for projects related to work, education, and health monitoring.
Local governments will receive the funds as direct recipients, but they can partner with subrecipients such as co-operatives, electric utilities, and other entities including ISPs.
We’ve already explored the guidance’s impact on broadband infrastructure, the Treasury’s eligibility requirements for receiving funds, and the types of projects covered by the Capital Projects Fund.
Let’s now dive a bit deeper into some of the Treasury’s specific requirements, the responsibilities of applicants, and options for data reporting:
Requirements for Accessing Capital Projects Fund grant funds
According to the Treasury guidance, applicants must do the following in order to receive grant funds:
- Demonstrate their status as an eligibility entity
- Prove that funds will go towards eligible projects that address critical needs of their communities
- Develop a Grant Program and Program Plan
- Properly evaluate the performance of their program including reporting geospatial data and other documentation of connected homes.
- Respond to all requirements and provide additional information, as required.
Broadband infrastructure subrecipients should understand each aspect of these requirements in order to form meaningful partnerships with applicants. We covered the eligibility theme in detail in the link above.
Providing a Grant Plan and Project Plan
Broadly, the goal of the Grant Plan is to provide the Treasury, “information on the Recipient’s intended uses of Capital Projects Fund funds.” The Grant Plan should outline the category of capital project (broadband infrastructure, digital connectivity, multipurpose community facilities), the project cost, and demonstrated intent to meet community needs. The Project Plan provides more detailed information.
The Treasury specifically mentions broadband infrastructure in their example: “a State might file a Grant Plan that indicates that it intends to spend funding on broadband deployment throughout the State, and a Program Plan that provides detailed information on its deployment plan for only some of the counties in the State.”
Broadband Infrastructure Reporting is Essential
A special emphasis is placed on reporting in the Treasury guidance. The Treasury asks for project and expenditure reports, which are to include, among other items, data on project status, expenditures, and “programmatic data such as geospatial data for Broadband Infrastructure Projects.”
There is also mention of performance reports, which are submitted annually and must include, “data related to Project and Program outputs and outcomes against the stated objectives of the Recipient’s Grant Plan.” Beyond reporting on the number of homes connected, when determining what communities to serve, recipients are encouraged to explore user speed data, as well as the frequency of jitter or latency. These metrics must be measured as the projects progress.
The Capital Projects fund states clearly that “costs associated with collecting and measuring performance data”, as well as studies related to permitting, planning, architectural design, engineering design, are all covered by the Fund as eligible expenses.
Decision makers can ensure they are following federal reporting guidance by investing in a centralized data repository that helps them track and measure data across the whole planning, building, and operating life cycle of their project. Reporting should be accurate, fast, and contained within a single platform.
VETRO, an internet infrastructure intelligence platform that simplifies and empowers every stage of the network lifecycle, can help decision makers in local governments and ISPs with the data they need to meet the Treasury’s requirements.
By simplifying reporting of the planning and mapping of broadband networks, VETRO becomes the platform of record for projects using Treasury funds. Sign up for a demo to see VETRO’s value for all the stakeholders working on public private broadband partnerships.