The two federal agencies charged with distributing the $7.2 billion for broadband rollouts authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are streamlining the process by awarding the remaining funding in just one more round, instead of the original two rounds.
The program is intended to expand broadband access and adoption in America, while creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth and opportunity. The first round of these grant and loan programs produced about 2,200 applications requesting nearly $28 billion in funding, almost seven times the amount of funding available in that round.
The RUS (Rural Utilities Service) and the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) are currently reviewing these applications and expect to award up to $4 billion in loans, grants and loan/grant combinations in the next round. The agencies expect to begin announcing funding awards in December 2009.
"Based on our experience with the first funding round, including the overwhelming response we've seen from applicants nationwide, we believe this consolidated approach brings a number of benefits," NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said in a statement.
RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein added in the statement: "This will get the funds out the door faster to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It gives applicants and communities a greater opportunity to come together to form networks and find more creative ways to connect to the global economy through broadband."
The agencies also announced they are seeking public comment on how best to administer the second round of funding in order to improve the applicant experience and maximize the ability of the programs to meet Recovery Act objectives.
"Stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide us with well-informed feedback on how the first round worked for applicants, the agencies will be able to make improvements to the process, and potential applicants will gain more time to form partnerships and create stronger project proposals. Ultimately, this approach can help us run the programs with increased efficiency and produce better results for the American public," Strickling said.