So much for that perceived lack of interest in broadband stimulus funding because the major incumbents passed on applying. Nearly 2,200 bidders have applied for almost $28 billion in broadband stimulus money from both the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's RUS fund. That is nearly seven times the $4 billion available for the program in this first round.
NTIA said the bidders committed another $10.5 billion of their own money in matching funds, which means all of these bidders are coming forward with more than $38 billion in proposed projects. The statistics show more than 320 applicants are seeking nearly $2.5 billion for broadband awareness, training, access and support. Another 360 applications are asking for a total of $1.9 billion for computer centers to expand broadband access. The remainder want funding for infrastructure projects.
Applications came in from a diverse range of parties including state, local, and tribal governments; nonprofits; industry; anchor institutions, such as libraries, universities, community colleges, and hospitals; public safety organizations; and other entities in rural, suburban, and urban areas, NTIA said.
NTIA said it will begin to announce winners in November. Another two rounds of bidding are planned for the remainder $3.2 billion in funds for broadband deployments in underserved areas. Could this turn out to be another "cash-for-clunkers" program whereby the federal government added more money to the pot to enable consumers to buy new cars with a rebate?
Meanwhile, most major service providers sat out of this round, mostly because they are unhappy with the net-neutrality rules tied to the awards. NTIA and RUS said they will go back and look at the rules after the first round of funding is done and consider changing them for the remaining $3.2 billion funding round to placate major service providers. But with this overwhelming response, one has to wonder if that will occur.
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