NTIA to begin awarding broadband stimulus grants in November

NASHVILLE--The National National Telecommunications and Information Administration, along with the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, is still sorting through nearly $28 billion worth of applications for broadband stimulus grants--nearly seven times the $4 billion available for the program in this first round. However, the NTIA hopes to begin awarding the first round of its grants in early November, according to an NTIA official.

Anna Gomez, NTIA's deputy administrator and deputy assistant secretary for communications and information, said in a keynote address at the PCIA Wireless Infrastructure show here that the agency hopes to have all of the grants announced by the end of the year. Later this fall, the agency will solicit comments on the first round of grants and gather best practices. Then, by late winter, the NTIA is to receive the second round of applications. Currently, the NTIA is deciding whether to combine the second round of applications with a third round, though Gomez emphasized that a decision had not been made either way.

Additionally, the NTIA is set to receive broadband mapping data from states by February, she said. The data will include deployment information, advertised speeds and types of service, she said, which will be used to identify where the greatest needs are for broadband in unserved and underserved areas. By February 2011, the NTIA is expected to have an interactive, national broadband map in place.

"I think our biggest challenge is because this a Recovery Act program, we want to be able to get the grants given so that you can have the stimulative effects of the grants," she said in an interview with FierceWireless. "You want the job creation, you want the building of the infrastructure, you want the economy to be positively affected by the issuance of these monies. And so we want to get this program up and running as quickly as possible, while at the same time making sure that we are very careful not to have waste, fraud and abuse, and comply with the various requirements of the statute."

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