Recipients of broadband stimulus grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are on track to meet progress targets for fiscal year 2012, the agency said in a quarterly status report issued in September.
The NTIA was one of two agencies, along with the Rural Utilities Service, that administered the broadband stimulus program. The NTIA is responsible for approximately $4 billion in stimulus awards, the majority of which (about $3.5 billion) is going to help cover a large part of the costs of broadband network construction projects.
According to the NTIA’s September status report, the infrastructure program already has exceeded the construction goal (measured in network miles) for the entire fiscal year 2012, with one quarter yet to be reported. The target goal was a cumulative total of 50,000 network miles – and funding recipients already have completed 72,152 miles, the NTIA said.
A key goal of the broadband infrastructure program was to bring connectivity to what the NTIA called “community anchor institutions” such as schools, libraries, hospitals and public safety facilities. The fiscal year 2012 goal was to see a cumulative total of at least 10,000 anchor institutions connected – and as of the end of third quarter of fiscal year 2012, the cumulative total was 10,045.
The fact that these goals were met might surprise some readers, who may have heard that some broadband infrastructure projects weren’t able to get started by the target dates that funding recipients originally forecast. During the third quarter of fiscal year 2012, the NTIA conducted schedule and budget assessments on a “select number” of infrastructure grants, with the goal of identifying the most common causes of schedule delays.
The findings won’t be a surprise to Telecompetitor readers. According to the NTIA, the most common causes of delays were environment and historic preservation compliance documentation, local permitting, agreements for rights-of-way and other land easements, and utility pole agreements and make-ready work.
The NTIA also found that companies assessed were “generally on budget during project implementation and are planning for project sustainability after the grant award period.”
In addition to the infrastructure program, the NTIA also awarded grants for public computing centers and for sustainable broadband adoption. The adoption programs consisted of digital literacy training and other efforts aimed at increasing the number of people who subscribe to broadband.
According to the new progress report, the cumulative goal for fiscal year 2012 for public computing center projects was to see 35,000 workstations installed – and funding recipients already have installed 36,347.
The success of the sustainable broadband adoption program is measured by the number of new broadband subscribers added as a result of those programs. The fiscal year 2012 goal was 350,000 cumulative new broadband subscribers and according to the new report, the cumulative total for the third quarter of 2012 was 388,679.
To date, the NTIA has conducted site visits for nearly 65% of the broadband stimulus projects that the agency funded. The agency also has been keeping tabs on whether funding recipients are contributing 20% of project costs as they are required to do. Through June 2012, the agency said it had finalized 91% of all match reviews.