Round 2 of broadband simulus awards: Are you disillusioned or eager?

Are you ready to tackle the next round of broadband stimulus applications? Last week the The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) released rules for this second round, and once again, applicants have a short time frame to sort out new, separate and lengthly rules from both the NTIA and RUS.

The deadline for applicants is March 15, which is once again causing potential applicants to scramble to understand the new rules. One major headache, however, should be fixed as applicants aren't required to submit the complex information they were required to give in the first round. That information is only required if they are called on to give due diligence.

Yet, one major snag I see is the fact that applicants in this second round really don't have much visibility as to what these agencies are looking for in terms of proposals because the agencies have delayed the process a few times and are just now trickling out awards to what appears to be the low-hanging fruit, such as broadband adoption grants and some middle-mile grants. Just yesterday, NTIA announced grants totaling $63 million to expand broadband access and adoption in Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina. It has now awarded 15 grants totaling about $200 million out of the $4.1 billion that is supposed to be awarded. RUS has not issued any awards yet.

That's disappointing to those wanting to apply for the second round as that first round was supposed to tell us a lot about what to expect from these agencies--what type of proposals they are favoring--in the second round. Still, there are some positive changes, those who have pored over the nearly 200 pages of documents report. For instance, RUS has eliminated the "remote, non-remote" qualifications, noted Successful.com's Craig Settles in a recent blog post. This will make more areas eligible for grants.

I will be waiting to see if this next round will be just as oversubscribed as the first. If you remember some 2,200 applicants filed for grants and loans. It seems that many of the applicants sitting around for the first round are getting a bit disillusioned. As one commenter said in response to an article I wrote about the new rules last week: "We are still waiting to see the split of the first round. After the initial $182M winners were announced we hoped things will start to roll quickly but ... given the performance until now, I give little faith. For me it's just publicity and PR."--Lynnette

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