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NTIA Grant Program: Connecting Minority Communities Webinar, Session 6

On September 22 and 23, staff from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program provided further detail regarding the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program. The CMC Pilot Program will provide $268 million in grant awards to eligible Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and consortia applicants in anchor communities for broadband Internet access service, eligible equipment, or to hire and train information technology personnel.

The CMC Pilot Program was authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Division N, Title IX, Section 902, Public Law 116-260, 134 Stat. 1182 (Dec. 27, 2020) (Act). As required by the Act, NTIA published a Final Rule for the CMC Pilot Program on June 15, 2021, and a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on August 3, 2021.

Moderator Cameron Lewis, Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA, facilitated a panel of speakers including:

  • Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
  • Michell Morton, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
  • Janice Wilkins, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
  • Kevin Hughes, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
  • Francine Alkisswani, Telecommunications Policy Analyst, NTIA
  • Pandora Beasley-Timpson, Management & Program Analyst, NTIA
  • Yongming Qiu, Grants Officer, NIST
  • Emy Tseng, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA

Woods provided applicants with general CMC program updates. The CMC Anchor Community Eligibility Dashboard has been updated to reflect the Department of Education’s 2021 Eligibility Matrix for MSI-designated institutions. The updates included the removal of 72 schools not eligible for the CMC program and the addition of 90 new schools with accompanying anchor community radius boundary/poverty analysis visualizations.

Woods was then joined by Morton, Wilkins, and Hughes, who addressed the “Top 5” questions the CMC team has addressed during the application window thus far. For example, staff emphasized requirements for institutional and consortia eligibility and detailed the eligible uses of funding.

Qiu presented a step-by-step overview of the application and submission processes, including the standard forms and other required elements to complete and submit an application via  Qui also provided an overview of the detailed budget and project narrative sections.

Alkisswani addressed an element of CMC data collection and evaluation. A prospective applicant’s project narrative must include a section describing intended results, performance measures, and proposed metrics. In particular, Alkisswani encouraged applicants to consider whether their Project Results and Evaluation plan falls under “Human Subjects Research” under 15 C.F.R. Part 27, and, if so, provide appropriate documentation (enumerated in the presentation, available on the webinar’s event page) affirming the protection of any human subjects.

Beasley-Timpson renewed NTIA’s request that those interested volunteer as a merit reviewer for CMC applications by October 31, 2021. Merit reviews will start in early December and extend through January 2022. More information about how to volunteer can be found on the BroadbandUSA website.

During the question and answer portion of the webinar, staff answered questions regarding a variety of technical, eligibility, and programmatic topics.

As a reminder, complete applications for the CMC Pilot Program must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on December 1, 2021.  For more information about the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, links to previous CMC webinars, the CMC Final Rule, the NOFO, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please visit the CMC Pilot Program webpage. Please register for our next scheduled CMC Pilot Program webinars on October 20 and 21.