On November 17 and 18, staff from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program presented the final session of the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program webinar series. 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, amended November 14, 2021.
Moderator Cameron Lewis, Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA, facilitated a panel of speakers including:
- Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist & CMC Pilot Program Team Lead, NTIA
- Karen Archer Perry, Senior Broadband Policy Analyst, NTIA
- Michell Morton, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
- Kevin Hughes, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
- Janice Wilkins, Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
- Pandora Beasley-Timpson, Management & Program Analyst, NTIA
- Francine Alkisswani, Telecommunications Policy Analyst, NTIA
- Yongming Qiu, Grants Officer, NIST
- Emy Tseng, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
Content for the webinar was based on questions received from prospective applicants during the CMC team’s outreach and technical assistance activities and is intended to guide eligible entities through the program’s key provisions and the application process. Perry provided an overview of the topics and content covered over the course of the CMC webinar series. Past sessions addressed topics on CMC eligibility criteria, tools available to prospective applicants such as the CMC Anchor Community Eligibility Dashboard, Indicators of Broadband Need Map, and further detail regarding the NOFO. The entire library of CMC’s virtual content is available on the BroadbandUSA website.
The CMC program team answered key questions around the types of collaboration or coordination that require applicants to form a consortium, the data involved in establishing greatest unmet financial need, anchor community eligibility data for U.S. territories, eligible program uses, timeline for use of funds, and duplication of federal funds. Team members also specified that CMC grant recipients are not subject to the federal government’s COVID vaccination requirements.
Qiu provided insight into elements of the application such as eligible equipment, level of detail needed for the project narrative, and the delineation between subrecipients and contractors, referencing past CMC webinars for further information from the NIST team. Woods then noted that an amendment to the program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity was made in November to include a short process for requesting missing or incomplete information. Woods stressed that this provision should not be interpreted to allow for the submission of “placeholder” applications, but rather an opportunity for applicants to correct routine technical errors and oversights.
During a final Question-and-Answer portion, CMC and NIST program staff fielded additional questions from attendees regarding eligibility, required application materials, and technical aspects of the application process. Please see transcripts, presentation decks, and recordings from the session (8a and 8b) for more information.
Should any proposed CMC recipient-conducted data collection activities involve human subjects, the prospective recipient should review NTIA’s Guidance for Human Subjects Research Protection. 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 Amended NOFO, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please visit the CMC Pilot Program webpage.