The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) trickled out the first broadband stimulus awards, announcing $182-million worth of awards. But questions remain surrounding the rest of the $4 billion that is supposed to be doled out in this first round.
Fiber projects dominate these first awards. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Dawsonville, Ga., last week to announce these first 18 projects. Plans are to issue another $2 billion in the next 75 days, which would push the next round of awards into March. Still another $2 billion or so is supposed to be allocated this first round, and the agencies have made no mention of plans for that allocation.
Clearly, the NTIA and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) are overwhelmed and understaffed after receiving some 2,200 applications valued at $28 billion. The timeline for awards continues to slip with the initial target set for November.
Complicating matters are filed protests from incumbent providers like Comcast, arguing that they cover territory already well-served by their own offerings.
Arizona, Alaska, Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio were among the six states that were awarded broadband funding grants of the $182 million, $129 million that came from NTIA and $53.8 million from RUS. Those projects together also will put up another $46 million in matching dollars.
The largest grant, $33.5 million, went to the North Georgia Network Cooperative for a fiber-optic ring that will bring high-speed Internet connections to the northern Georgia foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Another fiber project was awarded $25.4 million and calls for Biddleford Internet Corp., a partnership between the University of Maine and service providers, to build three fiber-optic rings across rural Maine. The network will pass through more than 100 communities with 110,000 households and will connect 10 University of Maine campuses.
Alaska Native Corp. in southwestern Alaska will build a 4G network.
A total of $7.2 billion is supposed to be awarded over the coming year. The agencies have issued an RFI for suggestions on how to award the second round.
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