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NTIA Grant Program: Connecting Minority Communities Webinar, Session 3

On June 23 and 24, staff from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program provided further details regarding the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program. The CMC Pilot Program will provide $268 million in grant awards to eligible Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and consortia 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, which is available on NTIA’s website.

Gilbert Resendez, Broadband Program Specialist, began the CMC webinar by introducing the CMC Pilot Program’s Final Rule, which establishes the statutory regulations for the program, as required by the Act, and lays out the programmatic scope, eligibility criteria, and general guidelines.  Resendez also discussed the forthcoming Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), which will provide more details regarding the CMC eligibility guidelines, application instructions, and program requirements.

Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, provided an overview of the Final Rule’s key provisions, discussing the specific funding purpose of the CMC Pilot Program, as well as the requirements for eligibility. Woods provided an overview of relevant information discussed in the previous CMC webinar, including additional information regarding the “greatest unmet financial need” requirement that an institution must provide in its application for CMC funding.

Woods then introduced the CMC Anchor Community Eligibility Dashboard, a tool that NTIA developed to help potential CMC applicants view NTIA’s initial eligibility determinations and “anchor communities,” which applicants can designate for program activities. The dashboard lists eligible recipient institutions by type and shows qualifying Census tracts within a 15-mile radius for each institution. The dashboard reflects NTIA’s application of the anchor community eligibility requirement based on median household income, average household size, and poverty threshold data.

Dr. Francine Alkisswani, Senior Policy Analyst, discussed stakeholder outreach conducted by NTIA while developing the CMC Pilot Program, as well as frequently asked questions regarding equitable distribution, broadband connectivity, digital inclusion activities, and the role of innovative approaches and methods in CMC program activities. Dr. Alkisswani underscored that the CMC is a pilot program, 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 at HBCUs, TCUs, MSIs and in underserved communities.

Woods then returned to cover the next steps for the launch of the CMC Pilot Program, including the approval and Federal Register publication of the NOFO. The NOFO puts the the program regulations into effect and will include further details regarding the CMC eligibility rules, specific application instructions, merit review process, and program requirements. NTIA will continue to conduct stakeholder outreach and begin pre-application technical assistance for prospective applicants.  NTIA anticipates accepting grant applications for the CMC Pilot Program by mid-August.

Finally, NTIA requests the help of merit reviewers for review of grant applications. For more information, please visit our Merit Review page.

For more information about the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, including links to previous CMC webinars, the Final Rule and NTIA press releases, please visit the BroadbandUSA website.