The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) have released rules for the second round of stimulus funding for broadband projects.
Interestingly, the NTIA and RUS have parted ways, and both agencies are issuing separate rules. NTIA has $2.6 billion available while the RUS has $2.2 billion for this next round.
Craig Settles, head of Successful.com, said the two Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) rules issued by the agencies appear as long as the first NOFA rules. Now applicants have two rules to sort through. Still, he believes separating the rules is a good idea given the fact that the two agencies have two different purposes and procedures.
"Based on the feedback we received from stakeholders and our own experience in the first funding round, we are making the application process more user-friendly, sharpening our funding focus to make the biggest impact with this investment, and streamlining our review process to increase efficiency," said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA. NTIA, he said, appears to be focusing heavier on middle-mile projects, while RUS is focusing on last-mile projects.
Jonathan Adelstein, administrator for the RUS said: "This draws on our long experience in improving rural networks to the most difficult-to-reach areas of our country that need it most. We've streamlined the application process, added support for satellite service for rural residents left unserved after other funds are awarded, and provided ourselves more flexibility to target areas of greatest need. We are going to stretch every last dime to maximize economic development in rural areas that currently lack adequate broadband service."
RUS's new rules appear to give applicants a clearer picture of what it takes to obtain money. The agency's new NOFA rules offer an opportunity for the reconsideration of requests to provide viable applications with every change for funding. RUS also instituted a second application review process that would allow applicants to adjust their applications.
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