Applications Come In for Second Round of Broadband Stimulus Funding

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Applications for the second round of U.S. broadband stimulus funding are starting to become publicly available on a federal website.

Approximately 870 applications had been posted to the database as of Saturday, according to Stimulating Broadband, a website dedicated to tracking broadband stimulus funding.

In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus package, Congress appropriated $7.2 billion for broadband grants, loans, and loan guarantees to be administered by the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). There are two programs: RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BIP will make loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas, while BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption project.

The first phase was slated to award $4 billion, a little more than half of the total $7.2 billion. In the first round alone, $28 billion in requests was made. Awards started being announced in December.

Until all the applications are posted -- for example, none of the RUS applications have been posted yet -- analysis can't be performed, according to an article in Stimulating Broadband. However, the number of NTIA applications is a significant decrease from the 1,789 received in the first round, the article said.

Interestingly, U.S West (Qwest), which sat out the first round, issued a press release -- one of the only applicants to do so -- saying it was applying for $350 million, 75 percent of the cost of a $467 million project among its 14 western and midwestern state service area. As it is an RUS project, it is not yet posted to the database.

"Qwest proposes to build facilities to serve more than half a million homes, schools, businesses and hospitals that lack access to today's high-speed Internet capabilities," the company said. "It plans to introduce the service at download speeds of 12 to 40 Mbps."

Originally, according to an article in the Denver Business Journal, Qwest had said it would not apply for the money because it could not be used for areas within 60 miles of cities. However, this rule was changed earlier this year, and Qwest said at that time it would be applying. Another factor that interested Qwest is that second-round grants fund 75 percent of the costs, whereas earlier grants would have funded only 50 percent of the cost.

The biggest grant to have been awarded thus far is $126 million, according to an article in Network World.

Grants are scheduled to be awarded by Sept. 30.

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