NTIA and USDA’s Rural Utility Services (RUS) have announced a series of Public Meetings to be held from March 16-24, 2009. In addition to the meetings, the agencies are seeking written comments on NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the RUS Broadband Program that provides grants and loans.
Both of these Broadband programs were established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Most of the meetings will be held at the Department of Commerce in Washington D.C. at 10am. The March 17th meeting will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada with the following day’s meeting scheduled for Flagstaff, Arizona.
Both NTIA and RUS are soliciting comments on a range of topics due on April 13th. Some of the possible topics include the purpose of the BTOP, role of the states, eligible grant recipients, criteria for grant awards, grant mechanics, grants for expanding public computer center capacity, grants for innovative programs, broadband mapping, financial contributions by grant applicants, timely completion of proposals, coordination between the BTOP and the RUS grant program, how terms should be defined, how success in the BTOP should be measured, effective ways for RUS to offer broadband funds, how RUS and NTIA can best align their activities, how to determine whether a particular level of broadband access and service is needed to help economic development, how priorities should be set to select applications, and what benchmarks should be used to determine the success of activities.
NTIA is working with $4.7 billion and plans to release three grant rounds with the first round to take place from April to June 2009. RUS will also be releasing three grant rounds in 60-90 days.
The FCC is not giving out grants in connection with the new broadband initiatives but the Commission is directly involved with broadband through their Rural Health Care Pilot Program. Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps said, “The FCC has been given an important role in the next 12 months to develop a national broadband strategy.
Details from both NTIA and RUS on the scheduled meetings and their request for comments were published in the March 12th Federal Register. Comments to be considered can be filed at www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants.