Grants for broadband becoming easier to apply for

Second round of funding applications are easier, streamlined

Two federal agencies have made applications easier to complete to get a share of $4.8 billion in a second round of broadband technology grants available under the economic stimulus law, the agencies have announced.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) are making applications available for the second round of broadband funding, according to a public notice published today in the Federal Register. The goal is to improve broadband access in underserved and unserved areas. The agencies are distributing $7 billion in broadband grants in several rounds.

"Based on the feedback we received from stakeholders and our own experience in the first funding round, we are making the application process more user-friendly, sharpening our funding focus to make the biggest impact with this investment, and streamlining our review process to increase efficiency," Lawrence Strickling, NTIA administrator, said in a news release.

In the second round, the NTIA will distribute $2.6 billion and RUS, $2.2 billion.

The bulk of the NTIA’s funding will go for infrastructure projects in a “comprehensive communities” approach. The goal is to connect key community anchor institutions such as libraries, hospitals, community colleges, universities and public safety institutions.

In addition, NTIA will award at least $150 million for Public Computer Center projects, which will expand access to broadband services at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that service the general public.

NTIA also plans to award at least $100 million for Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects, which include projects to provide broadband education, training, and equipment to areas in which populations underuse broadband.

RUS will focus the current round of grants on “last mile” projects to deliver broadband service from backbone networks to hard-to-reach customers. Additional funding in the next round will be made available for broadband technical assistance to regional economic development and rural libraries.

The agencies plan to accept applications starting from Feb. 16 to March 15, and will announce awards by Sept. 30.

NTIA and RUS are dealing with a heavy workload in handling an overflow of stimulus grant applications, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office and have hired more staff members.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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