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Universal Broadband Fund: Rapid Response Stream (RRS)

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Now accepting applications.

The objective of this stream, which has a budget of up to $150 million, is to enhance household access to high-speed Internet in the very short term or before November 15, 2021 to address immediate broadband needs and to contribute to the acceleration of the connectivity timelines and ambitions of the Universal Broadband Fund. It will allocate contributions of up to $5 million to projects that can be deployed quickly and have a big impact on networks in rural and remote areas where Internet service speeds have not yet reached 50/10 Mbps.

How to apply

Applications for the Rapid Response Stream will be accepted on an ongoing basis until January 15, 2021 and selected as they are received. We encourage potential applicants to apply as early as possible. In order to complete their application, applicants must submit the following documents, which can be accessed through the ISED Broadband Connection:

  • Rapid Response Stream Application form;
  • Rapid Response Stream Eligibility and Impacts Template;
  • Rapid Response Stream Detailed Budget Template;
  • Rapid Response Stream Last-mile Internet Service Offerings;
  • Project maps designed with the Eligibility Mapping Tool;
  • Supporting documents.

Eligibility

The Applicant is either a not-for-profit organization or a for-profit corporation incorporated in Canada, a Canadian provincial, territorial or municipal entity, a Band Council, an Indigenous government authority, a non-federal public sector body or a partnership of any of the entities listed above.

The Applicant or its partners should have sufficient experience to develop broadband networks within the time constraints of this program and in areas that do not already have 50/10 Mbps service according to the National Broadband Internet Service Availability Map.

Broadband projects that are underway may be eligible for this program if they can demonstrate how they plan to expand or upgrade their existing project, but activities already underway are not eligible. Organizations that want to deploy new broadband projects in the short term and/or could scale up ongoing projects, but could not do so without public funding support, are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Apply now

General questions

What is the Rapid Response Stream of the Universal Broadband Fund?

The Rapid Response Stream is a special stream of the Universal Broadband Fund designed to address immediate connectivity needs. Broadband projects under this stream must provide improved service by November 15, 2021 at the latest. This includes the deployment of the physical infrastructure and the connection of most households targeted by the project. The parameters, the review process and the selection of projects under the Rapid Response Stream are adapted to the exceptional and urgent situation prevailing at the present time due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The goal of the Rapid Response Stream is to increase the number of Canadian households with access to adequate Internet services during this difficult time while Canadians continue to work, learn, and socialize from home and as we move towards economic recovery.

What are the differences between the RRS and the main Universal Broadband Fund program?

The Rapid Response Stream and the main Universal Broadband Fund program are very similar in terms of their eligibility parameters and the type of projects they can fund.

The Rapid Response Stream is exclusively dedicated to household connectivity. Any technology that can be used to improve household Internet connectivity is eligible under both the main Universal Broadband Fund and the Rapid Response Stream. Customer premise equipment can be considered as an eligible cost under the Rapid Response Stream, if it is required to make the access available. All other eligible costs are the same for the Rapid Response Stream and the main Universal Broadband Fund.

The maximum funding contribution under the Rapid Response Stream is $5,000,000, but there is no similar cap under the main Universal Broadband Fund. The maximum sharing ratios that apply to rural, Indigenous, satellite-dependent and very remote communities are the same for both streams.

While both programs aim for rapid broadband deployment, the most important difference remains the timelines of the projects. Projects under the Rapid Response Stream should be deployed as quickly as possible and must be completed by November 15, 2021, whereas projects under the main Universal Broadband Fund may have until March 31, 2027 to be completed.

All the confidentiality, proactive disclosure, transparency and reporting requirements of the Rapid Response Stream are the same as those of the main Universal Broadband Fund.

Rapid Response Stream applicants are invited to consult the main Universal Broadband Fund application guide for information on the eligibility criteria, advice on how to fill out the requested documents and learn about tools that can assist them in the development of their application.

How fast can I begin my project under the Rapid Response Stream?

Though we cannot guarantee that all the eligible costs incurred before the Contribution Agreement is finalized would be covered by the funding, this stream tries to encourage applicants to begin work as soon as possible. Should your project be selected for the Rapid Response Stream, project costs incurred after the receipt of Conditional Approval, but before the signing of the Contribution Agreement could be deemed eligible. This will nevertheless not guarantee that the Contribution Agreement will be signed or that any of their costs incurred during that period would be reimbursed. Applicants are also encouraged to contact us during the application period to better understand this Rapid Response Stream specific policy.

How will my application be assessed?

The Rapid Response Stream operates on a rapid assessment basis, which means that applications can be assessed as they are submitted and approved while the intake period is still ongoing. Applications submitted earlier in the process have a greater chance of being selected than those submitted later.

We will prioritize stronger and complete applications. Note that the review of a project could be delayed if it:

  • Includes areas or households already covered with 50/10Mbps speeds;
  • Does not include all the necessary documentation;
  • Does not meet all the program's requirements and eligibility parameters;
  • Is submitted by an organization or a group of organizations with less managerial, financial and technical expertise or experience; or by an organization with a track record of not meeting deadlines, being late or experiencing significant issues in previous projects.
  • Has not secured or is not close to securing the remaining necessary funding;
  • Aims to develop slower Internet networks than 50/10Mbps and/or has less ambitious deployment schedules;
  • Has not yet secured its access to third party passive infrastructure if necessary;
  • Does not yet have its municipal permits or shows no indication that these permits will be obtained in the near future.
Will consideration be given to the organizational type of the applicants, the type of community targeted or the region of origin of the project?

Rapid Response Stream funding is meant to improve connectivity for Canadians in the immediate term. It will do so by providing funding to organizations with projects that can be completed by November 15, 2021.

We will make reasonable efforts to ensure regional diversity and that funding is available to Indigenous communities, depending on the applications submitted to the program.

Applicants are also encouraged to contact us to identify their best path forward under the available programming.

What is meant by a project that "can be deployed quickly"?

A project "can be deployed quickly" when the applicant can set up and build Internet infrastructure within a short period of time or when it is considered shovel-ready. A project "that can be deployed quickly" should:

  • Have equipment, materials, human resources, dependencies, plans and remaining funds needed to connect households to high-speed Internet services in the very short term ready and secured;
  • Not require access to third party passive infrastructure, or should already have secured such access if necessary, or should have evidence that access is in the process of being imminently approved; and,
  • Already have all its municipal permits or have evidence that these permits will be obtained promptly.

It is unlikely that a project will be able to rapidly deploy when the rest of its funding is not secured, when the applicant is unsure of the delivery date of the materials needed for the project or if it is uncertain that necessary internal resources to implement the project are available.

Applicants should be able to explain how the network will be implemented on time in the current situation if they do not already have the required equipment, including optic fiber, on hand.

Can I apply if I expect to complete my project after November 15, 2021?

We are looking to support projects that can very quickly improve connectivity for Canadians. Applicants can apply to develop a project that would be offering service by November 15, 2021. If, for any reason, you feel that your project will be completed after November 15, 2021, you are invited to apply to the main Universal Broadband Fund.

Can I apply if my project is already underway?

Applicants who can readily secure all the necessary funds, who have started or completed their infrastructure deployment work or whose project could generally be qualified as underway are not eligible for this program.

If the development of a project has started without the applicant having raised all the necessary funds, the missing funds could be covered by Rapid Response Stream, under the condition that the initial shortfall was clearly demonstrated.

Applicants who could extend an ongoing project by covering a larger area than already planned, are encouraged to apply to the Rapid Response Stream. For example, if an applicant had started their project to cover a 20 street neighborhood in the coming months, they may apply to cover an additional 10 underserved surrounding streets if the financial need for these 10 underserved additional streets is clearly demonstrated.

Are the 50/10 Mbps speeds targeted by Canada's Connectivity Strategy mandatory under the Rapid Response Stream?

The goal of Canada's Connectivity Strategy remains to connect all Canadian households to at least 50/10Mbps high-speed Internet services. Nevertheless, we recognize that there will be a transition period of varying lengths for some communities. Therefore, projects that will significantly improve connectivity without reaching the 50/10Mbps target may be considered by the Rapid Response Stream. That being said, the Rapid Response Stream could give priority to projects that will immediately reach the 50/10Mbps speed.

What type of proposal has a good chance of being reviewed immediately and possibly be accepted quickly for the Rapid Response Stream?

A strong Rapid Response Stream proposal:

  • Aims to implement a project "that can be deployed quickly" or by November 15, 2021 at the latest and is supported by evidence demonstrating that these timelines are realistic.
  • Is led or assisted by an Internet service provider with significant technical and managerial experience and expertise;
  • Is submitted by an organization that has already deployed a network of similar size and/or has already implemented a broadband project in similar deadlines;
  • Has key projects components ready, including the project plans, blueprint, remaining funding, equipment, dependencies and permits;
  • Has already secured, or is about to secure, access to third party passive infrastructure, if the project depends on such access;
  • Can demonstrate insufficient funds to go ahead with the project without public funding; and/or
  • Targets rural and remote areas where actual Internet speeds are at a much lower level than 50/10Mbps or simply non-existent.

For example, if an Internet service provider or its partners had planned and paid for the implementation of a project in the coming months and could now double its size with a Rapid Response Stream contribution, this additional segment would be eligible. It could also involve projects with Internet service providers experienced in designing and implementing broadband projects in a very short period of time.

How do I apply to the Rapid Response Stream?

Interested organizations need to submit their application package within the prescribed timeframe. During this process, you will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Application Form
  • Project coverage map(s) generated by the tool with the associated statistics that are paired with the coverage map(s) in kml/kmz format
  • Template 1R — Eligibility and Impacts Calculator
  • Template 2R — Detailed Budget
  • Template 3R — Last Mile Internet Service Offerings
  • Incorporation documents
  • Independently prepared financial statements for the last 3 years
  • Project schedule (Gantt chart)
  • If project is undertaking infrastructure in, or affecting an Indigenous community, applicant needs to attach an acknowledgement from the Indigenous community that supports the project (e.g. Band council resolution, letter from Chief in Council, letter from the Chief, etc).
  • Other supporting documents.
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