Broadband activities resulting from ARRA funding were presented on Capitol Hill to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the Department of Commerce, reported that the $4.7 billion allocated to NTIA to implement the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Broadband Mapping program, has already awarded over one billion for projects.
So far, NTIA has funded Recovery Act grants in 50 states and several territories. This includes 52 broadband mapping grants totaling $100 million with 59 BTOP grants worth more than $960 million. An additional $270 million in matching contributions has been pledged by the applicants themselves.
Some of the BTOP were awarded to:
• Merit Network, Inc., REACH Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative Project—grants totaling $33.2 million with an additional $8.3 million applicant-provided match to build a 955 mile advanced fiber-optic network through underserved counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
• Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative Middle Mile Expansion for Southern Virginia Project—grants totaling $1.6 million with a $4 million applicant provide match to add 465 miles of new fiber to an existing 800 mile fiber network
• MCNC Building a Sustainable Middle Mile Network for Underserved Rural North Carolina Project—grants totaling $28.2 million with an additional $11.8 million applicant provided match to build a 494 mile network serving almost one half of the population of North Carolina in 37 counties
To address the progress at the Department of Agriculture, Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) emphasized how USDA has worked side-by-side with NTIA and the FCC’s Communications Commission to fulfill the vision for promoting broadband access nationally.
He pointed out that under the first funding notice, RUS and NTIA received over 2,200 proposals from applicants requesting over $28 billion in funding. Of this total 401 applications were BIP-only requesting a total of $4.9 billion. Another 833 applications were joint applications going to BIP and BTOP totaled $12,791 billion. To date, RUS has announced over $895 million in funding for 55 projects in 28 states and one territory and expects to announce additional awards shortly.
On January 15, 2010, RUS and NTIA announced their second NOFAs for the BIP and BTOP programs. RUS has extended the deadline for application submissions from March 15 to March 29, 2010.
For the second NOFA, USDA eliminates the separate funding bucket for remote projects. Instead, USDA offers higher points for projects in most rural areas. USDA also allows applicants to request a grant amount greater than the standard 75 percent grant and this is now up to 100 percent grant. This waiver process allows UDSA to make viable awards to the most rural areas and those areas with density issues, low median income, and high unemployment.
Now with separate NOFAs and no joint applications, USDA and Commerce will concentrate on specific projects. Commerce will focus on Middle Mile projects that connect community anchor institutions and USDA will focus on Last Mile projects and will finance Middle Mile projects for current RUS borrowers and grantees.