Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Broadband Funds Coming

The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that they are streamlining the ARRA’s broadband grant and loan programs. The agencies plan to award the remaining funding in just one more round, instead of two rounds, to increase efficiency and to better accommodate applicants.

The first round of these grant and loan programs produced about 2,200 applications requesting nearly $28 billion in funding which was seven times the amount of funding available in that round. The agencies are currently reviewing these applications and expect to award up to $4 billion in loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations in this round. The agencies expect to begin announcing funding awards in December 2009.

The agencies are also seeking public comments through a Request for Information (RFI) on how to best administer the second round of funding for the programs. The RFI seeks comments on how to best target the remaining funds. Comments will need to discuss the impact of their proposal based on metrics such as the number of end users or community anchor institutions connecting to the service, the number of new jobs created, and the projected increase in broadband adoption rates.

The RFI asks whether to focus second round funding on projects that create “comprehensive communities” by installing high capacity middle mile facilities between anchor institutions to bring essential health, medical, and educational services to citizens. The RFI also seeks discussion on whether the definition of remote area is too restrictive, how the agencies can best ensure that investments are cost effective, and ways the programs might impact regional economic development and stability.

Go to www.ntia.doc/frnotices/2009/FR_BIP_BTOP RFI_091109.pdf for more information on the RFI.