The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program issued more broadband funding grants and loans in the first round of broadband stimulus awards, but frustration is mounting because not all of the first round awards are likely to be granted before the second round application deadline comes. That's a problem for second-round applicants who might be disqualified if they propose projects in the same places where first-round awards are granted.
NTIA and RUS are supposed to issue some $4 billion out of the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funding in this first round. The agencies have held steadfast with a March 15 application deadline for the second round. But in RUS' most recent announcement of stimulus awards, the agency said: "USDA is continuing to review broadband applications currently on file and expects to make additional announcements concerning awards throughout the current fiscal year."
Broadband consultant Craig Settles, head of Successful.com, sounded the alarm on this statement, saying, "This is probably going to send some over the edge and away from the stimulus program. The result: the American taxpayer loses. If ever there was a right time for Congress to intervene, now is that time." He said it will do no good to complain to NTIA and RUS since they are under a Congressional mandate to get the broadband stimulus funding process moving along.
For sure, both agencies have had the arduous task of sifting through some 2,200 applications in the first round.
Last week, NTIA doled out another 10 grants to projects in eight states totaling $357 million, while RUS announced funding for 11 projects in nine states In all, more than $277 million will be invested in the 11 projects through funding. An additional $1.6 million in private investment will be provided in matching funds.
Among the projects NTIA funded, North Florida Broadband Authority received at $30.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $9.2 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed broadband services to underserved areas in 14 Florida counties in the north central region through the deployment of a 1,200-mile fixed wireless broadband network.
RUS winners include Southeast Iowa Rural Wireless Broadband, which received a $3.8 million loan to service 80 rural communities using wireless broadband technology. On average, it appears that each round of winners includes only one wireless project.
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