NTIA and RUS announced availability of $4.8 billion in broadband stimulus funding. This is the second round of the program. New separate Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the BTOP and BIP programs, which outlines rules for applying for the second round of funding, are now available.
The second round NOFAs have been modified from the initial round. Both NTIA and RUS sought public comments for modifying the rules to make them more focused and user friendly. The agencies plan to accept applications for the second round of funding from February 16th to March 15th. Awards are scheduled to be announced by September 30th.
“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,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA.
“In response to lessons learned from the first funding round, RUS is making important changes that will make the process easier for applicants and target our resources toward ‘last-mile’ broadband connections to homes and businesses,” said Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
Of the $4.4 billion available in the second round, $2.6 billion is available through NTIA’s BTOP program. NTIA will allocate $2.35 billion for infrastructure projects, $150 million for public computer center projects and at least $100 million for sustainable broadband adoption projects. NTIA will put more emphasis on a ‘comprehensive communities’ approach, which targets middle mile broadband projects that involve community ‘anchor institutions,’ like libraries, colleges/universities, and hospitals.
RUS will make $2.2 billion available in this second round. RUS intends to emphasize last mile infrastructure projects. Unlike the first round, second round RUS projects will be 75% grant funded and 25% loan funded. The first round had different approaches to remote versus non-remote areas, with 50% grant/50% loan funding for some projects.
Notable changes from the first round include:
- Separate NOFAs for the BTOP and BIP program, allowing individual applications to each
- Elimination of the two-step process for BIP awards
- NTIA is removing the requirement that infrastructure projects that connect anchor institutions must be entirely located in unserved or underserved locations, although those designations will receive more consideration.
- NTIA is shifting emphasis away from broadband infrastructure projects to ‘comprehensive community’ projects
- RUS will only allocate funding for satellite broadband after Recovery Act funding is awarded and unserved areas still remain
- First round BIP applicants can reapply for the second round and RUS will allow those applicants to modify their application to better fit the new NOFA
There will be public workshops to outline the second round rules. The workshops will be held in Portland, OR.; Reno, NV.; Denver, CO.; San Antonio, TX.; Eureka, MO.; Sioux Falls, SD; Detroit, MI; Blacksburg, VA.; Fayetteville, NC; and Atlanta, GA.