The Infrastructure Supporting Public WiFi and Wireless Broadband Across Puerto Rico Program provides funding to make grants to Eligible Entities for the design and deployment of WiFi hotspots and additional infrastructure supporting fixed and mobile wireless services. The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are intended to clarify and provide guidance on information set forth in the Request for Proposals and Program Procedures released on April 12, 2023. OMB will update this document on a periodic basis as further questions arise.
The below FAQs are for informational purposes only and are intended solely to assist potential applicants in better understanding the Infrastructure Supporting Public WiFi and Wireless Broadband Across Puerto Rico Program and the application requirements set forth in the Request for Proposals for this program. The FAQs do not and are not intended to supersede, modify, or otherwise alter applicable statutory or regulatory requirements, or the specific application requirements set forth in the RFP. In all cases, statutory and regulatory mandates, and the requirements set forth in the RFP, shall prevail over any inconsistencies contained in the below FAQs.
If you have more questions, please send them to the following email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Who is eligible to submit a proposal and apply for these grant funds?
A: Private businesses and firms, universities, nonprofit organizations, and community development organizations are eligible to apply.
Q: What are the eligible uses of funds under this program?
A: Funds must be used for the design and deployment of public WiFi hotspots, the supporting infrastructure required to operate the WiFi hotspots, as well as additional infrastructure supporting broadband fixed or mobile wireless services.
Q: What kind of additional supporting infrastructure is eligible for funding?
A: Towers, smart poles, other structures, buried fiber backhaul, aerial fiber backhaul, microwave backhaul equipment, primary and backup power, and other similar infrastructure.
Q: Does this Program fund last mile infrastructure?
A: No. This program funds only public WiFi hotspots, the supporting infrastructure required to operate the WiFi hotspots, and additional infrastructure that supports broadband fixed and mobile wireless services. Applicants must fund the cost of last mile and mobile electronics themselves.
Q: Can an Applicant propose to install additional supporting infrastructure within a municipality?
A: Yes. However, applications that propose additional supporting infrastructure that addresses issues of resiliency, redundancy, hardening and service expansion into rural and distressed areas will be prioritized.
Q: How long will Applicants have to operate the WiFi hotspots?
A: A minimum of ten years. Applicants that demonstrate they can operate , maintain and upgrade the WiFi hotspots for longer than ten years will be prioritized.
Q: Will ongoing operating costs for the WiFi hotspots be paid directly by this grant program?
A: No. It is the intention of this program that revenue generated from the additional supporting infrastructure will provide the funding necessary for long-term WiFi hotspot operation, maintenance and upgrades.
Q: What if an identified WiFi hotspot Zone has issues such as access to existing vertical assets, the likelihood of being able to install appropriate structures?
A: Applicants can include in their proposal any information regarding access or permitting limitations they identify for any identified WiFi hotspot zone location.
Q: What if an identified WiFi hotspot Zone has issues such as the optimization of the WiFi Zone itself, including the identified boundaries of the zone?
A: WiFi hotspot zone locations were provided by the municipalities as point data, and polygons of logical WiFi zones were determined by OMB. Applicants are encouraged to propose optimizations to the WiFi zones and hotspot locations.
Q: If an Applicant would like to demonstrate they can operate the public WiFi network for longer than the minimum required ten years, how do we provide financial information past the ten years allowed in the Program Workbook?
A: In this case Applicants will use the provided Supplemental Workbook to enter annual financial data for years 11 – (up to) 20. Please follow the instructions provided in the Supplemental Workbook.
Q: If an Applicant chooses to demonstrate they can operate the public WiFi network beyond the minimum required ten years to receive the scoring points in this category as described in the RFP (3.5.1. Evaluation criteria details – WiFi Sustainability) does that mean the Applicant, if awarded, will be obligated to operate the WiFi network for the period of time demonstrated (between 10 and 20 years)?
A: Yes. If an Applicant demonstrates an ability to operate the public WiFi network beyond the minimum required ten years in order to receive the scoring points in that category, and if awarded, the Applicant will be required to enter into a grant disbursement agreement with the OMB specifying operations, maintenance and upgrade of the public WiFi network for the number of years the applicant demonstrates sustainable operations in the supplemental Workbook.
Q: Does the authentication platform have to be compatible with Windows NPS Radius? Are you guys integrating the platform with a specific server in Windows 2019 Server for this purpose? Please confirm if the authentication platform have to be integrated with Azure? Are you guys contemplating double factor authentication for the users from Azure Cloud? Or can we choose another double authentication factor source?
A: The OMB has amended the “Native support for the following authentication methods for client/AP connections” section of Annex C with the answer to this question. The OMB will be vendor agnostic for setting up the Authentication server. The Authentication method is now vendor agnostic, but a requirement based on the chosen network design. Successful Applicants will be required to coordinate with the Commonwealth to achieve successful implementation.
Q: How can I upload my files if they are larger than 10MB?
A: There are two options for uploading documentation, the organization can upload a compressed zip file or upload the documentation on a file sharing platform (such as Wetransfer, Dropbox, etc.) and in "project description" jot down the link to download the documentation.
Q: Can an Applicant propose to install additional supporting infrastructure in a municipality different than the one it submitted the proposal for?
A: No. In order to receive funding for additional supporting infrastructure in a municipality an Applicant must commit to design, deploy and operate (for a required minimum ten year period) the identified WiFi hotspot locations in that municipality.
Q: What is the funding distribution (money and/or percentage) per municipio? What is the ceiling funding for hotspots? What is the ceiling funding for additional infrastructure?
A: There is no predetermined distribution of funding per municipality, WiFi hot spot or additional supporting infrastructure location. The OMB has the discretion to allocate funding for individual projects based on how well an application conforms to the Program’s policies and goals. Applicants are encouraged to prepare applications that conform to the Program’s policies and goals and seek funding accordingly. Applicants seeking funding for network elements the OMB determines do not conform to the Program’s policies and goals may be asked to remediate their application to remove certain network elements.
Q: Are equipment guarantees purchased with the equipment considered an Eligible Cost?
A: Extended warranties are generally treated as an expense of operations and are not an eligible capital expense.
Q: Are the Air Conditioners installation & or replacements included in what is considered as eligible funds in Additional Infrastructure?
A: Yes, provided the air conditioners are needed in facilities such as cabinets, huts and buildings that that are required to provide service at WiFi hotspots or at additional supporting infrastructure locations. Applicants seeking funding for air conditioners may be asked to provide information regarding the air conditioner system to be replaced such as its age and size, and the connectivity relationship between the facility to receive the air conditioner and the WiFi hotspots or additional supporting infrastructure.
Q: What is the exact documentation that you expect to receive for hardware, professional services, and internal labor costs?
A: For hardware the OMB expects to see paid invoices from your supplier (or a lien waiver if the invoices are not yet paid). For professional services the OMB expects to see the agreements between the Recipient and their subcontractors as well as invoices. For internal labor costs, the OMB expects to see time sheets and time spent by each employee on project activities, total time spent by each employee during the period for which reimbursement is sought; and an hourly cost that may include employee salary, itemized payroll taxes and benefits.
Q: Are fiber facilities costs (such as subfeeder (last mile) and feeder (LG) elegible for reinmbursement?
A: No direct last mile expenses are eligible for reimbursement, with respect to existing FCC Uniendo obligations. Last mile fiber is not an eligible expense. Only fiber back haul necessary to provide service to the identified WiFi hot spot locations or to Additional Supporting Infrastructure locations, such as towers, will be considered an eligible expense.
Q: What Additional Infrastructure encompasses? By eligible additional Infrastructure it means that applies to infrastructure that supports: 1) Fixed Broadband Service 2) Fixed Mobile Wireless Broadband Service 3) Mobile Wireless Broadband Service
A: Yes, additional supporting infrastructure can include infrastructure that supports fixed broadband service, fixed mobile wireless broadband service and mobile wireless broadband service. Additional supporting infrastructure includes infrastructure such as towers, primary and secondary power and back-haul. Additional supporting infrastructure does not include infrastructure that directly provides last mile service such fixed or mobile transceivers, customer premise equipment, fiber service drops or any network element that is necessary to comply with an enforceable federal funding commitment.
Q: For Indoor access points, the RFP says that the “Minimum device load per indoor radio shall be 40 devices”, and that for outdoor access the “Minimum device load per outdoor radio shall be 200 devices”. Now, is 200 users (outdoor) and 40 users (indoor) the minimum for the design? What happens if at any point there are more users in the area than the minimum amount required? (That is connected users at the same time at a given time).
A: The 200-device minimum for outdoor and 40-device minimum for indoor locations were established as project-wide baselines to account for the diverse range of sites outlined in the RFP. Depending on the Wi-Fi sites for which the applicant is seeking funding, we recommend the following minimums: Guaranteed initial minimum speed of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload for WiFi on every user device (e.g., tablet, smartphone) during peak hours. Minimum speed, both download and upload, must increase by 50% every twenty-four months. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) capability. 99% uptime for any managed device and connectivity. The proposed coverage area should have less than a 10% geographic coverage gap where signal strength is weak or absent. The network should maintain average latency levels of less than 70 ms. To meet these minimum requirements, it’s necessary for the applicant to design their network with sufficient capacity to support peak usage, users, and traffic, thereby preventing network and access point overload.
Q: As we contemplate a design should we prioritize cost efficiency or an ability to fund the project? For instance in one location our fiber is right next to the locations and could do it at very low cost. Or we could design fiber in a loop to increase resiliency and travel through potential business areas to get to the WiFi areas. Which would you prefer? Should we be looking to bid buried fiber which is more costly but much more hardened for storm proofing, or aerial which is cheaper but more fragile. Or should be bid both for you to decide?
A: Applicants should submit funding requests that conform to the intent of the Program. As stated in the RFP, “It is the intention of this Grant Program that supporting infrastructure in addition to the required WiFi zones will be deployed to improve network redundancy and resiliency, and improve performance and affordability.” The RFP further states, “It is anticipated that revenue generated from the supporting WiFi infrastructure and additional infrastructure will cover the ongoing costs of operations, maintenance, and network upgrades for the public WiFi network. This Grant Program will show preference toward Applications that demonstrate a sustainable business plan for long-term public WiFi network operations.” The intention of the Program is to fund resilient infrastructure when practicable. An Applicant may provide projected costs for both aerial and underground construction options for various network segments.
Q: Can we use the poles and electricity from the municipality to set up our WiFi solution?
A: As indicated in the RFP, during the project, the OMB will serve as a liaison between the municipalities and the Recipient to ensure an efficient process. However, allowing approval and access to infrastructure, such as poles, rights-of-way, and electricity, is ultimately the sole responsibility of the applicant in each jurisdiction and owner or operator of the applicable infrastructure.
Q: At the overview point 1.1 it says, However, the grant program will not cover the costs of the fixed or mobile wireless hardware itself or its installation. Does this mean the Customer Premise Equipment’s CPE? If not, can you explain?
A: The cost of customer premise equipment (CPE) is not an eligible cost for this program. Last mile infrastructure is not an eligible cost for this program.
Q: You request that we need to offer for a minimum of 3 years a fully subsidized data service of (25/3Mbps). What happens if the program is closed before the 3 years lasts?
A: Successful Applicants will be required to enter into a long-term operator’s agreement with the OMB for operation of the Wi-Fi hotspots and subsidized services.
Q: Please explain what does it mean that the WiFi Hotspot locations and supporting infrastructure have “self-healing capabilities" in the event of device failure?
A: Wi-Fi Hotspot Network:
• Physical Infrastructure:
o Each Wi-Fi hot spot location can be fed by a single lateral from the IDF cabinet leading back to supporting infrastructure interconnection point.
o Cabling for each Wi-Fi AP can be single fed.
• Wi-Fi Access Points: Configurations should be in place to minimize interruptions in service, including automatic reboot in case of system failure. Power levels can be adjusted to handle outages or interference, and a mesh topology or similar setup should be used to balance traffic and users.
• Power – All Wi-Fi networks should have at minimum 4 Hr battery backup in the event of a power failure.
• Equipment: The gateway router or switching equipment should have both primary and redundant links to the central office or hub. Multiple ISPs can be used as backhaul service providers.
o Use of self-healing protocols and equipment that reduce network downtime and service calls for repairs.
o No power or equipment redundancy is required.
• Any supporting infrastructure should be connected to two separate interconnection points to minimize service disruptions.
o It is recommended to have supported infrastructure within 1000 feet of the Wi-Fi location to limit any single point of failures. Exceptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
• Equipment: The gateway router or switching equipment in the supporting infrastructure should have both primary and redundant links to the central office or hub.
o No equipment redundancy is required.
• Power – Supporting infrastructure equipment should have at minimum 4 Hr battery backup in the event of a power failure.
o No power redundancy is required.
Q: Who will pay for the necessary equipment for making the landing page and services required to manage this requirement?
A: Capital costs to develop the landing page are eligible costs. Operating costs to maintain the landing page are not.
Q: How will they relate to PRITS to work with the pr.gov domains? How will it be integrated? Does the platform already exist? What will be the requirements to operate this matter?
A: Once finished the RFP process and evaluated the proposals these details are going to be defined by PRITS.
Q: On point 2.2.12 what do you mean with SLA for Public Wi-Fi?
A: Applicants must provide a list of all service level agreements (SLAs) for users of the Wi-Fi service, which includes information on topics such as—but not limited to—speed, performance, and latency of service, help desk answer times, and onsite break fix. Applicants will provide this information as part of their narrative response and can upload additional information to support these criteria.
Q: If a small ISP is willing to contract an engineering firm for the design, how can they make it, can the cost for the design be converted on the grant? If the cost will be incurred before the grant is adjudicated, can this cost be reimbursed?
A: Design and engineering by a subcontractor is an eligible cost. Only costs incurred after the execution of a grant disbursement agreement with OMB are considered eligible costs.
Q: Does the grant allow us as small ISPs to build our own aerial fiber from our Principal NODES to the Public Free Wi-Fi, building our own fiber, aerial or underground?
A: Fiber backhaul to Wi-Fi hotspot locations is an eligible cost.
Q: Has the team considered making an extension for the submission of this RFP?
A: The deadline for this RFP is June 23rd.
Q: We are in the process of performing site surveys to the different locations requested in this RFP, can we have a point of contact to assist us in gaining access/permission to visit some of these locations?
A: Most of the identified WiFi locations are open public areas, and access should not be an issue. For those locations where access is an issue, please list those specific locations in an email to email@example.com and request assistance with access to those specific locations.
Q: According to the document, the Radio Access Networks (RAN) infrastructure is included and we want to clarify if you are referring to the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) that are on the towers.
A: Answering the question submitted, the RFP refers to Radio Access Network (RAN) as an example of the type of infrastructure that Applicants can use to generate program income. However, please keep in mind that no funding can be granted for any last mile fixed or mobile equipment. The underlying supporting infrastructure to operate a RAN, such as towers, power and backhaul, are grant eligible, but not the RAN equipment itself. RAN does refer to base transceiver stations located on towers.
Q: The fund for this program is $50M. Said $50M is distributed in the municipalities of this first window or is it $50M for the 78 municipalities? That is, this window and the next one.
A: The total Program allocation is currently set at $50M for all phases. However, the OMB reserves the right to adjust the total Program budget based on Applicant interest, participation and the quality of applications.
Q: Funds allocated to a winning proposal will be distributed in advance or, if not, how will they be distributed?
A: Grantees will be reimbursed for eligible, approved expenses on a receipt reimbursement basis during the period of performance.
Q: Is your expectation to receive one workbook and one narrative for each municipality or what are the expectations?
A: The expectation is to receive one Workbook for all locations in all municipalities. It is also the expectation to receive one Narrative for all sites in all municipalities, however if an Applicant feels a single Narrative would be too voluminous, they may submit more than one Narrative, including one per municipality or some other grouping of projects.
Q: On the Project Workbook Final 6.12.23, the “5. Operating Budget” sheet is locked and does not allows to select anything on “Cost Category”.
A: The OMB has published an updated Workbook to the Smart Island WiFi RFP site with tab 5. Operating Budget unlocked.