AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK ANNOUNCES RURAL BROADBAND PROJECTS TO BRING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY TO COMMUNITIES IN NINE STATES

February 22, 2010

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of eleven Broadband Infrastructure projects to enable rural residents in nine states to have access to improved economic and educational opportunities. Funding for the projects is being provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago today. Additionally, USDA and The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced that a second filing window for broadband applications opened this week.

Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement. Below is a complete list of recent Recovery Act Broadband award recipients by state:

Indiana

  • Smithville Telephone Company, Inc.: $37,729,143 loan. The funding will provide 3,815 households, 209 businesses, and 12 community anchor institutions with access to broadband service.

Iowa

  • Southeast Iowa Rural Wireless Broadband: $3,836,926 loan. The funding will provide Internet services to 80 rural communities using proven wireless technology.

Kentucky

  • Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation (MRTCC) ILEC Broadband: $39,843,535 loan and $38,281,044 grant. The funding will provide fiber to Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott counties that will result in 20 Mbps bandwidth to end users.

Louisiana

  • Allen’s Cable – Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Broadband Network Extension: $3,584,680 loan and $3,513,697 grant. The funding will extend fiber into rural areas of three South Louisiana Parishes.
  • LBH, LLC, – Rural Broadband Powered by Fiber: $16,693,439 loan and $16,691,939 grant. The funding will expand existing broadband into rural areas around Moss Bluff, Oakdale, and Vinton.

Minnesota

  • Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group (SWMBG): $6,350,000 loan and $6,350,250 grant. The funding will provide service to eight rural communities throughout Southwest Minnesota.

Missouri

  • Unionville, Missouri FTTP Project: $5,140,458 loan and $5,140,458 grant. The funding will provide broadband services to households, businesses, and key community organizations that are currently underserved in the Unionville area.

New Mexico

  • Western New Mexico Telephone Company, Broadband Infrastructure Project: $11,516,679 grant. The funding will provide last mile broadband services to remote and unserved locations and critical community facilities throughout Western New Mexico.
  • Baca Valley Telephone Company, Inc.: $1,651,000 loan and $1,586,000 grant. The funding will expand fiber optics to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) nodes in rural Northeastern New Mexico, replacing outdated deteriorating copper wire and low bandwidth microwave transport systems in some areas, while providing new connectivity in others, and enabling advanced, high-speed DSL service throughout the area.

Oregon

  • Sandy Broadband Infrastructure Project: $374,548 loan and $374,537 grant. The funding will provide broadband service to the underserved rural area of Sandy by improving and expanding wireless Internet service.

Texas

  • Southern Texas Broadband Infrastructure Development and Adoption Project: $40,093,153 loan and $38,520,868 grant. The funding will develop a broadband infrastructure in eleven unserved and underserved rural communities of the South Texas Plains.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/%21ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2010/02/0068.xml

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It’s D-Day for Broadband Stimulus Round Two

February 16, 2010

by Bernie Arnason

Both NTIA and RUS are now accepting applications for the second round of the broadband stimulus program.  The program officially opened at 8:00a ET today and applicants have until March 15th to apply. There was some speculation that the D.C. ‘snowmaggedon’ blizzards of the past couple weeks, which shut the federal government down for an unprecedented four days, would delay the opening. But the BroadbandUSA.gov website states everything is on schedule.

There are significant changes between round one and round two of the program. Both the BTOP and BIP programs have issued presentations to summarize the differences (click on BTOP or BIP to access them). The changes to the program came about in part by a request for information (RFI) for suggestions in streamlining the round two process. The government received 225 comments offering suggestions.

Here’s the funding breakdown for the two programs in round two:

BIP

  • Last Mile projects: $1.7 Billion (75% grant & 25% loan)
  • Middle Mile projects: $300 Million (75% grant & 25% loan)
  • Satellite projects: $100 Million (100% grant)
  • Rural Library Broadband & Technical Assistance projects: $5 Million (100% grant)

BTOP

  • Approximately $2.35 billion for Comprehensive Community Infrastructure  (or Middle Mile Broadband) projects
  • At least $150 million for Public Computer Center projects
  • At least $100 million for Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects

One of the major differences from round one is a separate application process, meaning applicants need to pick a program (BIP or BTOP) and apply directly to it. In round one, applicants could, in effect, apply for both with a single application.

As we’ve noted before, the program should see considerably more activity in 2010, considering all funding needs to be committed by September 2010. Less than 25% of the total funding has been committed so far.

RUS Awards $310 Million in Broadband Stimulus Funds, 8% of Program Now Committed

January 26, 2010

by Bernie Arnason

ARRA LogoBroadband stimulus activity is starting to build some momentum. On the heels of last week’s NTIA announcement of broadband stimulus funding, the RUS announced fourteen applicants will receive $310 million in funding. Broadband projects in eleven states will receive funding.

The funding is dominated by last mile projects and heavily emphasizes FTTH technology. “The awards for these broadband projects will support anchor institutions – such as libraries, public buildings and community centers – that are necessary for the viability of rural communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

By our count, approximately $564 million in funding has been awarded by both the BTOP ($200 million) and BIP ($364 million) programs to date. This announced funding represents only about 8% of the total $7.2 billion program. Given all the funds need to be committed by September 2010, roughly 8 months from now, look for a flurry of activity in the coming weeks and months.

For more details go to:  http://www.telecompetitor.com/rus-awards-310-million-in-broadband-stimulus-funds-8-of-program-now-committed/

Broadband Stimulus Rules Change for 2nd Round as NTIA, RUS Split Up

January 19, 2010

  by Ed Gubbins    January 15th, 2010

The NTIA and RUS are issuing separate rules for the second round of broadband stimulus funding, worth $4.8 billion.

The NTIA is allocating $2.6 billion in funding during the next round, of which $2.35 billion will go to infrastructure projects, with a focus on what the NTIA calls “comprehensive community” proposals: “middle-mile broadband projects that connect key community anchor institutions – such as libraries, hospitals, community colleges, universities, and public safety institutions,” the NTIA said.

RUS, meanwhile, will distribute $2.2 billion, with a focus on last-mile projects. It will also add “support” for satellite-based proposals, but only in areas that are left unserved after other funds are awarded.

The separation of the two entities’ efforts is good in the sense that it may simplify and streamline the application and distribution process for the second round, industry consultant Craig Settles told Connected Planet. The two groups could then more closely follow the methods they’ve used historically rather than trying to reach agreement on common practices.

But it could pose dilemmas for stimulus hopefuls that have already applied. Those who haven’t heard a response yet from their first-round proposal will wonder if they should stick with that bet or apply anew in the second round with whichever of the two agencies they consider more likely to approve their request.

As with the first round, time is of the essence. All applications are due March 15. Winners will be announced by the end of September. And this is the last round of broadband stimulus funding.

For a condensed but still detailed summary of the new rules changes go to:

http://blog.connectedplanetonline.com/unfiltered/2010/01/15/broadband-stimulus-rules-change-for-2nd-round-as-ntia-rus-split-up/

Broadband Stimulus Rush Begins with $182 Million Dispensed Today in Dawsonville, Ga.; Less Than 3 Percent of Total Funds

December 18, 2009

December 17th, 2009

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com; and Winter Casey, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2009 – The White House announced that $182 million in federal funding for broadband stimulus funding will be dispensed Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden at Impulse Manufacturing in the rural town of Dawsonville, Ga.

The initial grants are the first of a $2 billion disbursement in broadband funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the next 75 days, the White House said.

The funding, said the White House, is “to bring broadband to communities that currently have little or no access to the technology.”

The projects to be unveiled on Thursday includes 18 program that benefit 17 states.

The $182 million in funding on these 18 projects announced Thursday will be matched by $46 million in private investment.

Of Thursday’s total, $129 million comes from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and $54 million comes from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

See our related story on BroadbandBreakfast.com, that summarizes information known about the projects announced on Thursday.

The award include middle-mile projects in Georgia, Ohio, New York and North Carolina, a public computing center award in Arizona, a wireless project in remote Alaska, and two last-mile projects, in Maine and New Hampshire.

The White House is being extremely cautious in its unveiling of broadband stimulus funding. The $182 million in projects to be announced Thursday accounts for only 9 percent of the $2 billion that will be dispensed by the end of February.

In turn, that $2 billion represents only 27 percent of the $7.2 billion in federal funding allocated for broadband stimulus grants.

If the grants to announced by the end of February 2010 are the sum total of first round funding awards, that would leave nearly three-quarters of the remaining broadband funds to be announced in the second, or final, round of funding.

Put another way, Thursday’s announcements constitute merely 2.5 percent of all federal funds allocated for core broadband investments under the fiscal stimulus legislation, passed in February 2009.

In a Wednesday briefing embargod until Thursday, NTIA Chief Lawrence Strickling said that the government is not announcing more funding awards because they are carefully selecting the projects.

The first awards were initially planned to be announced in November – and completed by the end of December. The announcement was delayed. The Administration now plans to release grant recipient names on a rolling basis starting Thursday.

In a report issued by the National Economic Council said that “broadband investments will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy in the near term.”

The NEC Broadband Report, entitled “Recovery Act Investments in Broadband: Leveraging Federal Dollars to Create Jobs and Connect America,” continues: “By providing broadband-enabled opportunities to previously underserved communities, these investments will also lay the foundation for long-term regional economic development.”

The report summarizes three major categories of broadband investment: middle-mile, community anchor institutions and last-mile connections “to rural America.”

The report downplays one key segment of broadband expenditures – “sustainable broadband” – targeted by the Recovery Act.

In the report, “middle mile” investments are seen as critical. “Investments in the ‘middle mile’ extend the reach of the Internet into communities that would otherwise lack adequate access to broadband and its many opportunities. Moreover, Recovery Act middle-mile projects are specifically designed to improve connections to community institutions such as schools, hospitals, and libraries in order to enhance the quality of their critical services and reach large numbers of people.”

“By focusing on these institutions,” the report continues, “federal investment will connect more workers to broadband at their jobs, empower more children with digital skills through schools and libraries, and lead to increased broadband adoption in homes and businesses.”

The report also analogies current federal investments in broadband infrastructure to the government’s traditional investments in the Internet’s backbone.

The report quotes President Obama as saying, on September 21, 2009, that “one key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities… is to harness the full power of the Internet, and that means faster and more widely available broadband.”

Broadband Census Launches BroadbandBreakfast.com for News; Keeps BroadbandCensus.com For Public and Transparent Data Collection

November 19, 2009

Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2009 – Today, Broadband Census News launches BroadbandBreakfast.com, a new daily web site with definitive and independent news on broadband stimulus funding, wireless internet, and the national broadband plan.

This new domain, BroadbandBreakfast.com, will be used for the journalistic operations of Broadband Census News LLC — our company’s news subsidiary — and will cover broadband technology and internet policy. Our reporters are passionate about broadband, and we aim to maintain our focus on core issues of broadband technology and internet policy.

Meanwhile, the web site BroadbandCensus.com has been relaunched for the purposes of Broadband Census Data LLC: ensuring that the public has free and transparent access to basic and granular broadband information about broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition.

To read the full article, go to: http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2009/11/broadband-census-launches-broadbandbreakfast-com-for-news/

Streamlined Broadband Grant Process Promised

November 16, 2009

By AMY SCHATZ
WASHINGTONThe Obama administration said Tuesday it will streamline the application process for $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus grants in response to criticism from applicants and lawmakers that the program isn’t getting money out quickly enough.

Officials at the Commerce and Agriculture Departments outlined plans to consolidate into a single round a grant process originally projected to go for two more rounds. The first round of grants is scheduled to be made in December. The departments asked for comments on how the program could be changed to make it easier for companies to apply.

“This will get the funds out the door faster to stimulate the economy and create jobs,” said Jonathan Adelstein, the Agriculture Department official overseeing the program in a statement. The Agriculture Department oversees a program to build broadband lines in rural areas and will distribute loans as part of the stimulus program.

Administration officials said they’re looking at whether they should devote more of the roughly $3 billion that will be handed out in the second round to high-volume Internet lines in rural areas that could be shared by private companies, libraries and others instead of “last-mile” projects that would be used by a single company to offer broadband service to the home.

The moves come amid broader concern in Congress and the administration about unemployment, which hit 10.2% in October. Republicans have criticized the administration’s $787 billion stimulus program, saying it has moved too slowly and generated too few jobs.

The largest U.S. Internet providers, including Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., opted against applying for the broadband stimulus funds. All of the companies voiced reservations about some of the conditions that grant recipients would face, namely provisions that would require the providers to abide by open Internet, or net neutrality, rules that might hinder some future efforts to offer pricier Internet services.

Would-be applicants for the broadband grants have roughly two weeks to make suggestions for how grant requirements might be changed, administration officials said. In particular, the agencies want to make it easier for more suburban and semi-rural areas to qualify for broadband stimulus grants or loans.

“The things they’re asking about capture the most common things that people have complained about,” said Craig Settles, founder of Successful.com, a broadband business consulting firm. “There appears to be logic and some attempt to get to consistency and making life easier for the applicant.”

Several members of Congress, including Rep. Rick Boucher (D., VA) who heads the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Internet subcommittee, have complained that the rules were originally written so that some towns without fast Internet service inside their districts didn’t qualify.

“I believe that to be fair to applicants, we need to find a way to simplify the process going forward,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, at a recent oversight hearing on the program.

Obama administration officials spent much of the summer crafting rules for the grant program and holding workshops across the country designed to answer applicants’ questions about filling out the voluminous forms.

Those meetings did little to answer questions raised by applicants who were required to provide highly technical information about broadband availability in their areas.

The government ultimately received about 2,200 applications for the first round of broadband stimulus funding asking for about $28 billion in funds, far more than the $4 billion that was available. Grants were originally supposed to be awarded this month, but administration officials recently said they needed more time to sift through the applications and would begin awarding money in December.

Broadband Stimulus Awards to be Delayed

October 29, 2009

10/28/09 at 7:20 PM by Bernie Arnason

ARRA LogoNTIA Administrator Larry Strickling announced at a recent congressional hearing that the awarding of broadband stimulus funds will be delayed until at least December. The first of the $7.2 billion funding for infrastructure projects was originally scheduled to be awarded in November. Strickling told a Senate oversight committee that they need “…a few more weeks here to get this right.”

Over 2,200 applications seeking $28 billion in funding has been submitted to both the NTIA BTOP and RUS BIP programs. The programs are quickly running out of time, considering the ARRA legislation require all funding to be committed by September 2010.

Given that tight timeframe, many analysts believe the program will only offer two rounds of funding, as opposed to the original three rounds identified at the program’s inception. Given this new timeframe, it’s safe to assume that projects funded by the program won’t begin until well into 2010.

Obama Names ‘Smart Grid’ Projects

October 27, 2009

By REBECCA SMITH of The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration on Tuesday named 100 utility projects that will share $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to speed deployment of advanced technology designed to cut energy use and make the electric-power grid more robust.

When combined with funds from utility customers, the program is expected to inject more than $8 billion into grid modernization efforts nationally, administration officials said.

 

To read the complete article, go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125663945180609871.html?mod=rss_Today’s_Most_Popular

Governors of Illinois and Kansas Winnow State Broadband Stimulus Applications

October 22, 2009

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

October 20, 2009 – The states of Illinois and Kansas on Tuesday released their recommendations for the first round of broadband stimulus funding, with Illinois winnowing 140 applicants for broadband projects to a list of 31 proposed projects, and Kansas narrowing its pool of 85 applicants to 22.

Merely because a project is on the list of recommendations from a state does not guarantee acceptance by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service – nor does it mean that the federal government must select from among candidates on the state-approved list.

To read the complete article go to:  http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/10/governors-of-illinois-and-kansas-winnow-state-broadband-stimulus-applications/