NTIA, USDA, FCC Kick Off American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Broadband Initiative
Originally published: March 10, 2009
Last updated: March 11, 2009 - 1:12pm
Nothing beats fun in the ol'Commerce building.
Lobbyists, telecommunications industry officials, public interest advocates and others crowded into a public meeting on Tuesday to influence the government's $7.2 billion grant program for high-speed Internet expansion. The meeting at the Department of Commerce included officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission. It marked the first step in deciding which companies will gain from broadband funding included in the economic stimulus law. The funding aims to encourage broadband networks to connect rural and other unserved -- or underserved -- areas to the Internet.
Participants were asked to suggest what criteria the government should set for awarding the money. Their replies may come at subsequent public meetings planned over the next two weeks or in written comments in reply to an official Request for Information issued by the Federal agencies.
NTIA officials said the agency is leaning toward three grant distribution rounds, with rough time frames of April - June 2009, October - December 2009, and April - June 2010.
The USDA's Rural Utilities Service announced it will issue a 'notice of funding availability' within 60 days which will outline the amount of available funds, application requirements, scoring and evaluation criteria for applicants, and reporting requirements. Additional notices will follow during the life of the program. RUS-funded projects should be able to commence immediately and must focus on rural areas in which 75% of the area is determined to be either unserved or underserved.
The NTIA said it may spend up to $350 million on broadband mapping and planning, "at least" $200 million on public computer access and "at least" $250 million on programs to encourage broadband adoption.
All broadband stimulus grants and loans must be awarded by September 2010, and the projects funded must be "substantially complete" within two years.
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- Changes, Requirements and Critical Details: Final Broadband Stimulus Opportunity for BIP
- Agenda for March 10 Public Meeting on Broadband Initiatives
- Biden Announces Availability of the $4 Billion in Recovery Act Loans and Grants to Increase Broadband Access and Adoption