The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service recently released the second Notice of Funding Opportunity Availability (NFOA) for $4.8 billion to provide grants and loans to expand broadband access and adoption.
NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding notice allocated $2.6 billion of which $2.35 billion will be made available for infrastructure projects. In this round, NTIA is adopting a comprehensive communities approach in awarding infrastructure grants and concentrating on middle mile broadband projects to connect key community anchor institutions.
In addition, NTIA plans to award at least $150 million of the funding for Public Computer Center projects to expand access to broadband service at libraries, colleges, and other institutions that serve the general public. NTIA also plans to award at least $100 million for Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects to provide broadband education, training, and equipment particularly to vulnerable population groups.
RUS has allocated $2.2 billion in this funding round for broadband infrastructure projects through their Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). A second funding window will open later which will provide grants for satellite service for premises that remain unserved, make technical assistance grants to help develop plans to use broadband for regional economic development, and to provide grants to help bring broadband service to rural libraries.
This RUS round will focus on last mile projects which are anticipated to receive the vast majority of funding but RUS will also fund middle mile projects involving current RUS program participants. The first RUS NOFA had two funding options such as funding for grants up to 100 percent in remote rural areas, and 50/50 loan/grant combinations in non-remote rural areas. Now RUS has eliminated this distinction and adopted a base 75/25 grant/loan combination for all projects.
NTIA has announced that the rules for applying for awards in this round have been modified to make the application process easier for applicants.
Some of the changes involve:
• Separating BTOP and BIP applications to increase efficiency
• Focusing on “Comprehensive Community” infrastructure projects
• Removing the requirement that infrastructure projects connecting community anchor institutions must be located in unserved or underserved areas although these areas will receive additional consideration
• Improving the online application system to streamline the intake of information and make the process more user-friendly
• Clarifying eligibility factors and for requesting waivers from several key statutory and programmatic obligations
The agencies are accepting applications from February 16, 2010 to March 15, 2010 for the second funding and awards will be announced in September.
Both NTIA and RUS will hold a series of public workshops to review the new application process and answer questions from prospective applicants. The workshops will be held starting on January 26th through February 12th in Portland, Oregon, Reno, Nevada, Denver, Colorado, San Antonio, Texas, Eureka, Missouri, Sioux Falls, South .Dakota, Detroit, Michigan, Blacksburg, Virginia, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia.
So far, NTIA has awarded grants to fund broadband mapping and planning activities in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas under NTIA’s State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program. In addition, on January 20th, NTIA announced grants totaling $63 million to expand broadband access and adoption in Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina.
For more information on the second round of funding go to http://www.broadbandusa.gov/ and for information on the new online tool to facilitate partnerships go to http://match.broadbandusa.gov/.