GREAT GRANT PROGRAM

Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology

The GREAT program is designed to expedite the terrestrial deployment of broadband within unserved areas of Tier One counties, with transmission speeds of at least 10 Mbps download, and at least one Mbps upload. Deployment of speeds of 25:3 Mbps or greater is encouraged.

In accordance with N.C. Session Law 2018-5 § 143B‑1373(e) “applications shall be made publicly available by posting on the Web site of the Department of Information Technology for a period of at least 30 days prior to award.”

GREAT Grant Program

Application Instructions

Please follow the directions below to complete your application. For more detailed instructions, click the button below the list. 

  1. If you have not already, register for an NCID.
  2. Complete a User Authentication form.
  3. Return to the GREAT Grant webpage.
  4. Click “Start Your Application.”
  5. Click “Continue” to access the grant application portal.

* Interactive instructions are the same instructions as the video, however, they allow you to progress forward and backward using slideshow functionality.

The North Carolina Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO), as authorized under S.L. 2018-5, is providing grants to private providers of broadband services to facilitate the deployment of broadband service to unserved areas of the State. The Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Program funds eligible projects in economically distressed Tier One counties. The application materials and program guidelines are for use when applying for the GREAT Program, and have been developed based on the enabling legislation for the GREAT Program within S.L. 2018-5.

Key Dates

  • 11/01/2018: Information Session
  • 11/09/2018: Applications Open
  • 02/01/2019: Applications Deadline

The GREAT program is designed to expedite the terrestrial deployment of broadband within unserved areas of Tier One counties, with transmission speeds of at least 10 Mbps download, and at least one Mbps upload. Deployment of speeds of 25:3 Mbps or greater is encouraged.

In accordance with N.C. Session Law 2018-5 § 143B‑1373(e) “applications shall be made publicly available by posting on the Web site of the Department of Information Technology for a period of at least 30 days prior to award.”

GUIDELINES & FAQ

What key definitions do I need to know?

Key definitions and requirements contained within the program information are derived primarily from the legislation that created the program. Below you will find a guidance document that includes key definitions specifically related to the GREAT Grant program.

What is the criteria for eligibility?

While the Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) cannot provide a listing of all households or businesses within the state that have broadband service of less than 10:1 Mbps available, the Office has compiled some general data on eligible areas to serve as a starting point for interested applicants. Broadband availability data is collected twice per year by the Federal Communications Commission, from providers of facilities-based broadband services through their Form 477 data submissions. This data is granular to the census block level. If one household within a census block is shown as being served, the full census block is reflected as being a served block.

In an effort to support the mapping and planning efforts required to complete this application, we have built a resource that will allow you to locate eligible areas.

What application materials do I need?

The online application process will require the following materials to be submitted for consideration of each proposal. Additional explanation or details may be offered within the online form itself, but the list below provides general guidance on materials required for submission.

How and Who can Protest an Application?

The enacting legislation creating the GREAT Grant program outlines a Protest Process for a provider of broadband services to protest an application on the grounds the proposed project covers an area that is not eligible. Interested parties may also submit comments during the protest window. Below, you will find a link to more detailed information around protesting.

How are applications scored?

The GREAT Program is a competitive grant program. Applications shall be scored based upon a system that awards a single point for criteria considered to be the minimum level for the provision of broadband service with additional points awarded to criteria that exceed minimum levels. Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants.

How do grant awards and agreements work?

Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants. Applicants awarded a grant(s) shall enter into grant award agreement(s) with the NC Department of Information Technology/Broadband Infrastructure Office. The agreement shall contain the elements outlined in the Application Materials.

How do I get an NCID?

As part of the application process, you are required to register an NCID. Below, you will find a link to the link to the NCID Registration Form.

How do I complete an User Authentication form?

As part of the application process, you are required to have a completed User Authentication form completed and on file. Below, you will find a link to the form that must be completed and returned to the Broadband Infrastructure Office via email at greatgrant@nc.gov.
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How to access the GREAT Grant Mapping Tool?

 

In an effort to support the mapping and planning efforts required to complete this application, we have built a resource that will allow you to locate eligible areas.

Who do I contact for help?

For GREAT Grant specific questions:

  • NCBroadband.gov/GREATGrant
    • Visit the FAQ
  • GREATGrant@nc.gov

For Application help, contact the SAP Support Services Team:

  • 919-707-2208
  • DOTITSAPPSupportServices@ncdot.gov

For NCID Support:

  • it.nc.gov/ncid
  • 919-754-6000
Can activities be executed by the county or officials within the county between now and when the grants are due and become eligible for the Community Broadband Planning point?

It is our opinion that activities executed by the county or officials within the county between now and when the grants are due are eligible for the 1 point for Community Broadband Planning; however, the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office will require an explanation as to how a County is eligible for this 1 point and some form of documentation.

What criteria outside of the scoring criteria listed in the points portion of the grant application will be used to evaluate/judge/award which applications receive grants?

The GREAT Grant Program eligibility requirements and scoring criteria were written into the S.L. 2018 -5 (Appropriations Act of 2018). Based on S.L. 2018-5, there are 13 requirements for the application and there is a 14th requirement that allows our office to collect any other information or supplementary documentation. Our office provides Guidance Documents to assist eligible applicants with the grant process. We encourage you to download the Guidance Documents from www.ncbroadband.gov/greatgrant. I have also attached a zip file with the documents for your reference. Specifically, based on S.L. 2018-5, “Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants…”

Will scoring criteria be based on homes/businesses served per grant dollar awarded?

Cost Per Household is a criterion in the scoring matrix. Please refer to “Section V – Scoring” for the full description of the scoring criteria

Will scoring criteria be based on most homes/businesses served per application?

Unserved Households (HH), Households (HH) To Be Served, and Unserved Businesses are criterion in the scoring matrix. Please refer to “Section V – Scoring” for the full description of the scoring criteria

Would technology used to deliver services or speed offered be considered as part of the scoring criteria?

S.L. 2018- 5 states, “It is the position of the General Assembly to not only have broadband service extended to areas where it presently does not exist but also to foster speeds exceeding 10:1 to help assure that as much of the inhabitable area of the State as possible is well-positioned with broadband service for the future. Therefore, the General Assembly encourages the deployment of speeds of 25:3 Mbps or greater”. The scoring criteria includes a “Base speed multiplier”. Please refer to “Section V – Scoring” for the full description of the scoring criteria

How will applications be evaluated and winners determined

very application that will evaluated based on the criteria set forth in S.L. 2018-5 and described in the attached Guidance Documents. Winners will determined based on S.L. 2018-5, “Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants…”

Application Materials Summary & Details

Can tower lease be used towards the match?
It is our interpretation that tower leases are considered recurring operating costs and are not eligible to be used towards the match.
Does the match have to be fully in cash, or if we have new material (recently purchased with invoice proof) can the inventory be used toward the matching contribution to the grant?

Match must be in cash.   Eligible match must be for costs incurred after the grant award.

Can applicants utilize the 2019 County Tier Rankings?

The GREAT Program is currently utilizing the 2018 Tier Ranking system. 

What if a vertical asset is in place in a contiguous county but is just over the county line of the county of interest. Does the county line create any deterent from an award.

No more than one grant may be awarded per fiscal year for a project in any one economically distressed county.  It is our interpretation that 1 grant application for two counties is not possible. 

When applying for a project that would be Fixed Wireless can we utilize Grant funds to build a tower in areas where they are needed in order to serve customers?

Our interpretation is that towers and all necessary appurtenances are eligible project costs as long as it serves end users in eligible project areas.   It is also important to note from the guidance document – Section III – Application Materials & Detailed Summary – the note about middle mile and backhaul and the note about towers.

Can labor be part of the match of the grant?

In-Kind match is not allowable in this program.  However, it is our opinion that paid labor can be paid by the grant or be used towards the cash match as long as it meets the definition of eligible project costs defined in the GREAT Grant Program.  In addition, paid labor must be shown or supported by copies of pay stubs or payroll documentation that identifies the employees that were paid, pay rate, and hours worked.  This must all be tied directly to the approved project. 

If additional funding beyond grant and matching funding is spent by provider for project are those receipts required for audit?

If awarded a grant, all eligible costs and sources of funds for the project must be accounted for in the grant agreement and will be subject to audit

Will grant funding be reduced if drop or ONT is not installed at house for homes passed with no interest of taking broadband service at end of project

The legislation refers to “projects that will provide broadband service” to unserved households and businesses. The number of unserved households and businesses, “to be served”, must be included in the application. The Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) interprets the program to mean that infrastructure deployments should utilize a “homes-passed” approach in calculating the number of unserved households and businesses reached. Locations where broadband is “being made available”, should be able to receive broadband from the provider/applicant within a short number of days upon request. For example, in some federal programs, broadband availability has been defined to mean the ability to provide service within 7-10 days upon request by a consumer. Drops, Optical Network Terminals (ONTs) or other Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) should then be able to be easily installed following sign-up by a customer.

Whether an applicant chooses to include costs for drops, ONTs or other CPE in the application is up to the applicant. Grant funding could be reduced if the funding cannot be spent as outlined in the project application, although a process for budget revisions will also be included in award contracts. How to estimate costs based on the adoption rate is up to the applicant to determine

If an applicant is planning on using towers to deploy fixed wireless into an eligible area, can electricity be a part of the project?

Yes, we will consider electricity as part of the construction/installation; however, the towers and all necessary appurtenances must be tied to last mile services to the end user.  The grant will not pay for any recurring costs. 

Is tower construction an eligible expense under this program?

Yes. Here’s a note from Section III – Application Materials Summary & Detailed Instructions

Note regarding towers:
While costs for building towers are not expressly ineligible, applicants are encouraged to utilize vertical
assets already in place or easily installed (poles, small monopoles, repeaters, etc.), as much as possible.
Including new macro towers in a project may create lengthy construction timelines, especially around
land purchase and environmental regulations

Can we access a tower or construct a tower in a county that is not an eligible county as defined the GREAT Grant program?

Our interpretation is that towers and all necessary appurtenances are eligible project costs as long as it serves end users in eligible project areas. Towers can be constructed in another county; however, you can only count households served by those towers in the eligible county as defined in the GREAT Grant program. It is also important to note from the guidance document – Section III – Application Materials & Detailed Summary – the note about middle mile and backhaul and the note about towers.

Eligible Areas

Does the project area have to be contiguous?

A project area does not have to be contiguous; however, the project area has to be an eligible area as defined in the Guidelines. 

Can your office provide the addresses that are eligible in a census block?

Our office is not able to provide a listing of all households or businesses within the state that have broadband service of less that 10:1 Mbps. 

Is it possible to turn in an application for a community that is not in a eligible census block if you know they do not have 10/1 service?

Yes.  Portions of census blocks (even in areas where the overall census block shows greater than 10/1) can be eligible if those individual locations have less than 10/1.

Can the county or economic development office of a county confirm eligible locations within a census block shows great that 10/1 service?

Potentially; however, your application will have to show data supporting that those individual locations within the census block have less than 10/1.

Yes.  Portions of census blocks (even in areas where the overall census block shows greater than 10/1) can be eligible if those individual locations have less than 10/1; however, your application will have to show data supporting that those individual locations within the census block have less than 10/1.

General Questions

Are you aware of any impediment to multiple providers submitting a single joint grant application for a county, even if the providers’ individual projects are entirely unrelated?

No, there is nothing within the grant program’s authorizing legislation that would prevent multiple providers from filing a single, joint grant application for a county; however, all of the rules and guidelines of the grant program must be followed and there must be only one (1) grant applicant.  If the project is awarded funds it will be awarded to the single, legal applicant. The sole grantee would be responsible for administering the grant and agree to follow all of the provisions within the executed contract (grant agreement), which also includes progress reporting and the potential repayment of funds. 

Do you have any guidance regarding the definition of what is considered a business for purposes of NC Great Grant scoring?

In particular, are the following considered businesses:

– Churches
– Farms (any guidelines requiring a minimum size – either based on acreage, # of employees, annual revenue, etc?)
– Fire departments and other community anchor points
– Other home based businesses (maybe such as a repair shop, kennel, beauty parlor, accountant, etc?)

It is our opinion that all of the above are considered businesses; however, it is important to note that Home Based Businesses should not be double counted with the household count in the scoring matrix.

Grant and Award Agreement

How will grant funds be distributed?

As of now we will pay based on the percentage of costs for a particular reporting period.  We’ll finalize the payment procedure/schedule in the contracting/grant agreement phase of the program.

Scoring

Could any of the activities defined in the criterion for Community Broadband Planning be executed by the county or officials within the county between now and when the grants are due and become eligible for the Community Broadband Planning point?

It is our opinion that activities executed by the county or officials within the county between now and when the grants are due are eligible for the 1 point for Community Broadband Planning; however, the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office will require an explanation as to how a County is eligible for this 1 point and some form of documentation.

What criteria outside of the scoring criteria listed in the points portion of the grant application will be used to evaluate/judge/award which applications receive grants?

The GREAT Grant Program eligibility requirements and scoring criteria were written into the S.L. 2018 -5 (Appropriations Act of 2018). Based on S.L. 2018-5, there are 13 requirements for the application and there is a 14th requirement that allows our office to collect any other information or supplementary documentation. Our office provides Guidance Documents to assist eligible applicants with the grant process. We encourage you to download the Guidance Documents from www.ncbroadband.gov/greatgrant. Specifically, based on S.L. 2018-5, “Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants…”

How will applications be evaluated and winners determined?

Every application that will evaluated based on the criteria set forth in S.L. 2018-5. Winners will determined based on S.L. 2018-5, “Applications receiving the highest score shall receive priority status for the awarding of grants…”

Can a subsidiary and parent company work together in order to qualify under the partnership option of the grant?

Generally yes; however, you must meet the criteria within the definition of a partnership within the GREAT Grant program.

In the Scoring section, points may be awarded based on “Cost Per Household”. What if the “Estimated Cost per Household” is greater than $2200 in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain Region, or greater than $3300 in the Mountain Region?

As noted in the Scoring Guidelines document, points are awarded in this section for projects that minimize the infrastructure cost. It is possible to submit an application for projects that exceed $2200 Estimated Cost per Household (Piedmont/Coastal Plain) or $3300 (Mountain Region). However, projects where the Estimated Cost Per Household is greater than these thresholds do not receive points in this section.

The State statute for the GREAT Grant does not specify what makes up the infrastructure costs for projects, could you provide clarification on this?

The “Cost Per Household” section of the Scoring refers to “infrastructure cost of the proposed project per household”  – when referring to the “Estimated Cost Per Household.” Applicants should calculate the “Estimated Cost Per Household” by dividing “Total Project Cost” by the number of “Households to be Served.”

Does customer premise equipment (CPE) need to be included in the overall “cost per household” financial number calculation?

Whether an applicant chooses to include costs for CPE in the application is up to the applicant. Estimating costs based on the adoption rate is also up to the applicant to determine.

It also important to note that the legislation refers to “projects that will provide broadband service” to unserved households and businesses. The number of unserved households and businesses, “to be served”, must be included in the application. The Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) interprets the program to mean that infrastructure deployments should utilize a “homes-passed” approach in calculating the number of unserved households and businesses reached. Locations where broadband is “being made available”, should be able to receive broadband from the provider/applicant within a short number of days upon request. For example, in some federal programs, broadband availability has been defined to mean the ability to provide service within 7-10 days upon request by a consumer. Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) should then be able to be easily installed following sign-up by a customer.

In the Coastal area if costs are above $2,200 per household overall for a FTTP project, will this reduce the score to zero for this section?

As noted in the Scoring Guidelines document, points are awarded in this section for projects that minimize the infrastructure cost. It is possible to submit an application for projects that exceed $2200 Estimated Cost per Household (Piedmont/Coastal Plain) or $3300 (Mountain Region). However, projects where the Estimated Cost Per Household is greater than these thresholds do not receive points in this section.

Will cost per household be the main driver for award of grants?

Cost per household is just one criterion in the entire scoring matrix.  The program will utilize a scoring criteria that is included in the authorizing legislation of the GREAT Grant program and further assistance can be found in the following guidance document: “Section V – Scoring”. 

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