The USDA released the report “Connecting Rural America,” outlining the projects that USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has funded under the first round of awards made through ARRA’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).
In the first of two scheduled funding rounds, RUS awarded $1,068 billion for 68 broadband projects in 31 states and one territory. Awards for last mile remote projects received $13 million, last mile non-remote projects received $49 million, and middle mile projects received $6 million. A second round of applicants will be announced later in 2010.
These projects will bring broadband service to an estimated 529,249 households, 92,754 businesses, and 3,332 anchor institutions across more than 172,000 square miles. Community anchors, such as schools, libraries, healthcare providers, colleges, critical community facilities, plus 19 Tribal lands will benefit from the funding for broadband.
As for activities in one state, the Texas Pride Network is going to construct a FTTP telecommunications infrastructure to help advance broadband services to over 50,000 residents and 2,000 businesses in rural communities in the Texas South Plains Region.
The Texas Pride Network received $22,720,551 in Federal loans and $21,829,549 in grants to provide cost efficient services to help first responders, 911 services, distance learning, advance telemedicine, and provide broadband internet connectivity to this underserved community.
In addition, the Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. received $40,093,153 in loans and $38,520,868 in grants and will also develop broadband infrastructure in eleven unserved and underserved rural areas in the South Texas Plains.
Other agencies are also moving forward and cooperating on broadband issues. Following up on the National Broadband Plan’s recommendation to use the power of broadband to improve healthcare, the FCC and FDA are working together and will hold a joint public meeting in July. The plan is for the two agencies to streamline the review process used for life saving wireless medical technologies and then work together to approve new wireless medical devices for the marketplace.
In addition, the FCC and FDA are working together to identify the challenges and risks posed by the use of new sophisticated medical implants and other devices that use radio communications. They are also examining the challenges and risks posed by the development and integration of broadband communications technology with healthcare devices and applications.
In another cooperative action, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling, met recently to discuss their agencies roles with respect to commercial and federal spectrum and how to maximize spectrum use.
The FCC is also launching a Universal Service Working group to be chaired by Sharon Gillett, Chief of the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau, to provide a comprehensive approach to the reform of the universal service program. Other bureaus within FCC will participate along with smaller inter-bureau and inter-office working groups to propose solutions to developing the universal service vision as it is included in the National Broadband Plan.