On May 5 and 6, staff from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program presented an overview of the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program, a $285 million grant program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) or consortium applicants.
Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA, provided a preview of the eligibility methods and rationale for the CMC program, including the “anchor community” eligibility threshold that will require the use of median household income data, 250% of poverty level calculations [https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html] and maximum distance from an HBCU, TCU, or MSI to meet eligibility. More information about the methodology and rationale used to define eligible anchor communities can be found in the materials for the webinar. Woods also covered the data around the “greatest unmet financial need” requirement that an institution should provide in its application for funding, as well as the prioritization and evaluation requirements that those who receive grants will need to adhere to once grant funds are distributed.
Dr. Francine Alkisswani, Senior Policy Analyst with NTIA, covered the outreach to stakeholders conducted by the NTIA team as part of developing the program, and shared feedback and frequently asked questions around issues such as equitable distribution, digital inclusion, and the role of innovative methods in CMC program activities. Dr. Alkisswani underscored the nature of the CMC program as a pilot, with reporting and evaluation features that reflect NTIA's hope that successful programs will provide templates and guidance for future efforts to expand broadband access and adoption in underserved communities.
Karen Perry, Senior Policy Analyst with BroadbandUSA, pointed to several of the resources available for identifying eligible entities and finding local community demographic data, including:
- The National Center of Education Statistics’ (NCES) college navigator [https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/]
- The U.S. Department of Education’s list of Minority Serving Institutions [https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/idues/eligibility.html#tips]
- The American Community Survey tables for poverty and income data [https://data.census.gov/cedsci/]
- BroadbandUSA’s February 2021 [link] and June 2020 [link] webinars on federal data resources
Perry provided a step-by-step walkthrough to show how a community can access “Household Income 12 Months Past 12 Months” B19013 and “Average Household Size” B25010 data to aid in determining an area’s eligibility for funding under the CMC program.
Woods returned to cover next programmatic steps for the development and launch of the CMC Pilot Program. NTIA is requesting the help of merit reviewers for applications [https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/news/latest-news/call-reviewers-ntia-broadband-connectivity-programs]. After the publication of the CMC Final Rule and the Notice of Funding Opportunity, NTIA will conduct stakeholder outreach and technical assistance for prospective applicants.
NTIA anticipates accepting grant applications for the CMC Pilot Program later this summer. May’s Connecting Minority Communities webinar was part of a series focused on NTIA’s new broadband grant programs authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Please visit BroadbandUSA’s website for:
- Video, slides, and transcript for this webinar;
- More information on upcoming sessions; and
- More information about NTIA’s grant programs, including Notices of Funding Opportunity, as it becomes available.