US broadband stimulus grants delayed

Federal grants to be funded in February

One of the government agencies in charge of doling out broadband stimulus cash has pushed back the dates for when it will start handing out grants.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said in a filing with the US House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week that it was planning to start awarding broadband stimulus grants this December and would begin funding the grants in February of next year. The NTIA's original timeline had been to fund all first-round projects by year-end, but the agency says that it has had to push back its timeline due to "the large number of complex applications and the voluminous amount of information the agency needs to review."

This past August, the NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service said they had received roughly 2,200 applications for the US$4 billion worth of grants available for broadband projects in the United States. The applications, which were submitted earlier in the year, requested funds for a total of about $28 billion in broadband projects, or seven times the total funds available.

The $4 billion in grants currently available to applicants is just the first part of the $7.2 billion that the government has allotted to fund broadband infrastructure investment over the next two years. Of that money, $4.7 billion has been given to the NTIA to award grants for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in un-served or under-served areas; to deliver broadband capabilities for public safety agencies; and to stimulate broadband demand through training and education. The remaining $2.5 billion in broadband stimulus money has been allotted to the Department of Agriculture to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Because the NTIA and RUS have received so many requests, they now plan to release the rest of the funds for projects early next year rather than having two separate rounds of awards. The broadband grants are being awarded as part of the larger $787 billion economic stimulus package passed into law earlier this year.

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