Applications for broadband grants under the stimulus law far outstrip available funds
About $4 billion is available from economic stimulus law
The Commerce and Agriculture departments have about $4 billion available from the federal stimulus law to spend on broadband projects. They also have nearly 2,200 applicants for grants from that pool, which represent a proposed $28 billion worth of projects.
Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service are administering the grants from the $4 billion pool, which is the first round of funding. Overall, the stimulus law makes available $7.2 billion for broadband in areas that have limited service, or no service.
Federal officials said the flood of proposals has eased concerns about whether there was sufficient interest in the program. “Applicants requested nearly seven times the amount of funding available, which demonstrates the substantial interest in expanding broadband across the nation," said Lawrence Strickling, NTIA administrator.
In the coming weeks, NTIA and the utilities service will publish an online searchable database with summaries of all applications received, the agencies said.
The $28 billion represents the amount that requested by applicants. Considering the $10.5 billion in matching funds required of applicants, the proposals represent $38 billion in proposed broadband investments.
For broadband infrastructure, the NTIA received approximately 260 applications requesting $5.4 billion in grants; the USDA received 400 applications for $5 billion in grants and loans; and the NTIA and USDA together received 830 applications jointly for $12.8 billion in grants.
For sustainable broadband, including education, awareness, training and support, the NTIA received 320 applications seeking $2.5 billion. About $150 million will be distributed in the first round under this program.
For public computer centers, 360 applications were filed with NTIA requesting more than $1.9 billion in grants. Up to $50 million will be available in the first round.
Last month, the FCC began recruiting volunteers to review the applications for broadband funding.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.