- What are eligible project costs?
Eligible project costs include terrestrial capital expenses directly related to a qualified broadband project, including design, construction, engineering, make readies, permitting expenses and validation of service. Maintenance or operating expenses related to the project do not qualify as an eligible expense.
- Can the grant fund middle-mile only projects?
CPF recipients may use funds for middle-mile broadband grant projects. However, the purpose of the grant is to deploy last-mile broadband infrastructure to residential and business locations in unserved areas within Indiana. Grant dollars can only be used for middle-mile related costs if it is necessary in order to provide last-mile service.
- What areas are eligible for grant funding?
Areas that do not currently have fixed service of at least actual 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed.
- What is the maximum grant amount?
The maximum grant amount per project is $5 million.
- Will certain types of technology receive preference?
The Office of Community and Rural Affairs is technology agnostic and will not select an application based solely on the proposed technology solution.
- Will certain speed levels receive preference?
Because the funds allocated to this program are part of Indiana’s appropriation of the US Department of Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, projects that provide technology solutions of 100 Mbps/100 Mbps or greater will receive priority of funding. All proposed projects must be at least 100/20 to be considered eligible.
- When can providers address discrepancies on the address list, such as duplicates or previously awarded addresses?
Providers have multiple opportunities to bring attention to potential issues regarding OCRA’s address lists. Providers can work with county governments to mark issues on the address template they were sent and may also send them directly to our inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ineligible addresses can also be challenged through the NLC Round 4 challenge process.
- What should be done if a valid address is missing from the address data that OCRA has sent to counties and providers?
Providers may work with county commissioners to add potential missing addresses onto the “county address template”, or they may send addresses directly to OCRA during the LOI phase.
- Are partial census blocks eligible?
NLC Awards are made by passing to discreet addresses rather than by census block. An application must commit to these addresses rather than a territory.
- Does the project area need to be contiguous?
The addresses in project areas must be in contiguous counties.
- What service addresses are ineligible?
Any service address that has already received NLC Broadband Grant funding or was allocated funding from the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is not eligible. Service addresses where actual speeds are more than 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream within a census block that received other federal funding such as Connect America Fund, Broadband Technology Opportunities Fund, or State Broad Initiative are not eligible for NLC funding. Any service address that currently has 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream is ineligible for funding.
- What census blocks are eligible for funding?
OCRA has provided unserved and underserved addresses to each county from the latest 477 FCC fabric level data. We are expecting county governments to select addresses and work with local providers to add census block data to those addresses before returning the address list to OCRA for each county. Please note that the awarded locations for grants will be made at the address level. The census blocks are being added for reference purposes only.
- What is the eligibility of service addresses that received a valid challenge in a previous round?
Service addresses that were challenged in previous rounds are not applied in Round 4. The focus remains on the unserved service addresses within Indiana. Challengers will need to submit another challenge against the service addresses and census blocks proposed in the eligible address pool.
- If non-terrestrial providers are ineligible entities based on the “qualified broadband project” definition, will they be able to challenge census blocks?
Non-terrestrial providers will not be eligible to challenge census blocks unless they meet the criteria in the “qualified broadband provider” definition.
- What version of the FCC Form 477 data is used in OCRA's dataset?
The dataset is based on version 2 of the FCC’s fabric data and the most recent provider data.
Letter of Intent
- How has the Letter of Intent process changed since NLC Round 3?
Service providers will be sent a document that will serve as their Letter of Intent to participate in NLC Round 4, which they will be responsible for returning to OCRA. They may also submit address list that will be used added to the eligible address pool for NLC Round 4, along with the address data provided by the local county commissioners across the state.
- Can a fixed wireless provider challenge at the address level?
Fixed wireless is an allowable technology type under the terms of the program and may submit challenges to proposed addresses.
- What challenge documentation is needed for a challenge evaluation?
Please refer to section II of the challenge phase instruction on the OCRA website. Please note that all eligible projects require a minimum of 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, instead of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
- Does a Professional Engineer need to stamp/sign the technical specifications for a challenge submission?
Technical Specifications submitted as part of a challenge are not required to have a signature or stamp from a PE. The affidavit submitted must verify that the challenger has the capacity to provide minimum actual speeds of 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, and that the broadband infrastructure is designed to meet the identified needs of the challenged service addresses and census blocks.
- If a challenge is submitted for addresses where service can be deployed in 10 days, is there specific documentation that should be included to validate deployment plans?
If service can be deployed within ten days, documentation will need to include a service order record, or work order for construction to the premise, or verification of service of at least 100/20 for each address. Other types of documents are outlined in the Challenge Phase Instructions.
- If a challenge is submitted for a planned deployment, is there specific documentation that should be included to validate construction plans?
There is not specific documentation that must be included for planned construction aside from the required documents outlined in the Challenge Phase Instructions.
- Are challenges based solely on the latest 477 data?
Challenges are not based on Form 477 data alone. A Challenger may submit a challenge based on whether the entity is already providing eligible broadband service, can deploy service to an address in ten days or has the ability to verify plans to provide service by 18 months from the date of challenge with adequate information. OCRA officials may or may not reach out to the provider for further verification.
- How will an applicant be notified if any of the service addresses in the census blocks in their application are validly challenged?
OCRA anticipates publishing the challenge decisions on the website in time to allow applicants to make corresponding adjustments to their applications prior to the submission deadline. An announcement will be sent out when the information is available. OCRA plans to notify applicants if their proposed project area is impacted by the challenge determinations.
- Will OCRA provide the names of the entities challenging address level data and census blocks?
The names of the organizations that have submitted a valid challenge will be published with the validly challenged address level data and census blocks. If there are multiple organizations, then all names will be noted by census block.
- Will OCRA provide the challenger with a specific reason the challenge was deemed invalid?
Challengers will receive an email from OCRA stating whether a challenge is considered valid or invalid, and if invalid, a specific reason will be stated in the email.
- Will OCRA provide the address level data submitted by a challenger to the applicants?
The address level data submitted by a challenger will be made publicly available. OCRA will utilize the address level information submitted by both the applicant and challenger during the Full Application review and scoring period to evaluate individual locations and whether or not they are eligible to receive funding under the program requirements.
- If an applicant includes a validly challenged service address or census block in their Full Application, will the Application be eliminated from the opportunity to receive a grant award?
If an applicant chooses to include a validly challenged service address or census block in their Full Application it will not necessarily eliminate the application from consideration, as long as the application is competitive through the review process. If an application is competitive, OCRA may choose to negotiate project areas with an applicant by utilizing the address level data provided to the Office by both the applicant and the challenger.
- Will applicants be able to appeal a challenge decision?
There will not be a direct appeal process for applicants to appeal a challenge decision. Applicants may choose to provide additional evidence that an area should be considered unserved. OCRA may fund partially served census blocks if the addresses proposed do not overlap with an incumbent provider’s service areas that meet the 100/20 actual speed minimum.
- Will challengers be able to appeal an invalid challenge decision?
There will not be a direct appeal process for challengers that receive an invalid challenge. Decisions will be based on the content and form of the required documentation outlined in the Challenge Phase Instructions document available on the website.
- Will the format and documents for the grant application be the same as Round 3?
The content and form of the requirements are very similar but some of the requirements have changed based on legislation passed in the 2023 legislative session.
- Can previous round applications be resubmitted, including census blocks that were considered ineligible for funding?
Applicants may resubmit proposed project areas from previous rounds, provided they are included in the pre-determined eligible address pool.
- What information should be included in a letter of need from residents, businesses, and community members?
A letter of need should clearly explain the need for broadband connectivity within the proposed project area. OCRA recommends that letters of need and support include both quantitative and qualitative information.
Quantitative information may include, but is not limited to, current service levels and/or pricing, speed test information, cost to install, address and census block, etc. Qualitative information may include the inability to complete educational or work requirements, workforce development, access to healthcare and telemedicine, etc.
- Are organizations applying for the grant allowed to either reference OCRA and Next Level Connections or utilize the logo in efforts to obtain community, business, and anchor institution support?
Applicants may reference the grant program and OCRA in their efforts to obtain support, but may not utilize the logos.
- Can an applicant utilize letters of support that were submitted in previous applications?
Any letter of support should reflect the time period for the current funding round, and in the case of Round III, all letters should be dated no earlier than July 1, 2021.
- What should the applicant provide for the Certificate of Territorial Authority?
An applicant should include the cause number in the Project Narrative document, and may also choose to include a pdf copy of their CTA as an appendix though this is not required.
- Is the value of a tax abatement considered to be local match?
Local match must be provided in the form of cash. Tax abatements would not qualify as cash match.
- Can an applicant use its own employees to lay fiber and include that cost toward the grant amount?
The applicant may use its own employees and request reimbursement for those hours under the appropriate line item. For example, if the employee completed construction related to the project, the grantee would request reimbursement under the construction budget category for this work.
- Is there a standardized survey that can be used to represent unserved areas? Are there specific questions that should be included in a survey?
OCRA does not require a specific format or set of questions to be utilized in a survey to gather unserved data. It is up to each applicant to determine the most applicable question set for the proposed area. There is an Excel Survey data template included in Round III’s application instruction.
- Does OCRA have a preferred speed test tool to gather end-user data?
OCRA does not give preference to a specific tool.
- What level of detail is required for the application in terms of the network design?
A preliminary technical evaluation of the project is required. It must include a project cost estimate, project schedule and maps showing the proposed project area. It should be certified by a Professional Engineer (PE).
- What are some examples of community support that an applicant can provide?
The types of community support are flexible depending on the impact this project will have on the community located in the proposed grant area. Some examples could include: letters from educational institutions, healthcare facilities, local elected officials, and future customers in support of the proposed project. This would also include the Broadband Ready certification for the proposed project area.
Community support comprises a portion of the scoring, so OCRA recommends applicants begin collecting this information as early as possible. Applicants are encouraged to work with community partners to identify ways to utilize the proposed infrastructure.
- What is the Competitive Application?
The Competitive Application phase, as outlined in the 2021 Indiana Legislation, is when an applicant can submit a Competitive Application in response to a published initial Full Application indicating the competitive applicant could provide eligible broadband service for at least the same service level and to the same project area at a lower cost to the state.
- Does a Competitive Application have to be the same project area as the Full Application?
The Competitive Application must have the same address level data and census blocks as the Full Application it is based on. To be considered, the Competitive Application must have a lower grant request than the initial Full Application for at least the same service level for all of the project area.
- Does a Competitive Application first go through a Challenge Phase?
Since the Competitive Application is based on service addresses and census blocks in a submitted Full Application, all of the service addresses have been reviewed and determined eligible for inclusion in an application.
- What documents are required in a Competitive Application?
The Competitive Application must meet all of the requirements as a Full Application. The requirements are outlined in the NLC Round 4 instructions.
- How will Competitive Applications be scored?
Competitive Applications will be scored just like a Full Application. Scoring Criteria is outlined in the NLC Round III instructions.
- What is a passing?
Passing is an address that service is/would be available at the location. OCRA has identified four types of passings: household, business, anchor institution and farm/agribusinesses. Business is defined as all business types, home-based businesses, and work-at-home/telecommuter use of broadband. Anchor institution is defined as community facilities including public safety buildings like fire and police buildings; hospitals, educational buildings, community centers, libraries; and city, county, state and town buildings.
- What is a terrestrial connection?
Terrestrial connection is defined as a fixed connection, and not service provided by mobile or satellite carriers. Applications may propose to complete the project with any technology capable of supporting the service levels described in Section I.C.i. of the Round 4 Application.
- What is a “unique project area” as stated in Section E. Limitation on Submissions?
Unique project area means the proposed project area is a different set of census blocks for each submission. An applicant cannot submit the same project area multiple times.
- What does it mean that service could be “deployed in ten days”?
Determination of ten-day service deployment will be based on the definition recently passed in Indiana Legislation. Service is defined as being available if the provider does, or could, within ten days, without an extraordinary commitment of resources or construction charges or fees exceeding an ordinary service activation fee, provide 100/20 broadband Internet at the location.
- What is the definition of “statistically significant survey data”?
OCRA follows procedures that surveys must be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level and confidence interval of five. Applicant may utilize the Sample Size Calculator that OCRA recommends when entities are unsure of what their sample size should be for a proposed project area. In order to overturn a validly challenged service address, there must be associated survey data from that address.
- Can you clarify the definition of last mile and middle-mile?
The last mile refers to network infrastructure that carries signals from the network to and from the home or business. Depending on network design and density of the area served, the actual distance of the last mile can be relatively short or may be considerably longer than a mile. Middle mile refers to the portion of the telecommunications network that connects a network operator’s core network to the local network (last mile) plant. Middle-mile facilities provide fast, large capacity connections and can range from a few miles to a few hundred miles.
- How will OCRA determine the results of conflicting speed tests?
OCRA will determine the final decision on differing speed test results on a case-by-case basis. OCRA reserves the right to ask for additional information including requiring conversations with the providers and residents, a professional engineer’s certificate for the number of addresses in different passing types, or the committed upload and download speed claimed to be served for each project.
- Will funded projects be required to pay prevailing wages?
No, projects will not be required to pay prevailing wages. However, funded projects will be required to report on whether prevailing wages were paid in order to meet the ARPA requirements. Reporting requirements will be shared with funded projects.
- Will OCRA publish competitive challenges?
Yes, applications received as part of the new competitive applications, including scope of work and budgets, will be published.
- Will any form of technology be prioritized?
OCRA will not discriminate between different types of technology used to provide qualified broadband service in connection with proposed qualified broadband projects.
- How does OCRA define minimum broadband internet for eligibility of addresses?
As defined by Indiana Code, minimum broadband internet means a terrestrial connection to the Internet that provides reliable actual speeds of at least one hundred (100) megabits per second downstream and at least twenty (20) megabits per second upstream, regardless of the technology or medium used to provide the connection. Any Indiana address not receiving reliable broadband internet meeting these criteria will be eligible for inclusion in the program.
- What is the definition of eligible broadband internet for households and businesses?
As defined by Indiana Code, broadband Internet means connection to the Internet that provides reliable actual speeds of at least fifty (50) megabits per second downstream and at least five (5) megabits per second upstream, regardless of the technology or medium used to provide the connection for households and businesses.