NTIA has received 230 applications requesting a total of $2.5 billion in the Broadband Infrastructure Program–a rural broadband funding program with a budget of $288 million.
“Due to the high volume of applications, the award process will be highly competitive,” NTIA said in a press release.
The NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program was created in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. It will provide grants to partnerships between a state or political subdivision of a state and providers of fixed broadband service. Applications were due August 17.
The program targets census blocks where no location has internet service available at speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream or higher and will give priority to projects that will provide service at speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps.
Priority also will be given to rural areas, to projects that would serve the greatest number of households and to projects that are most cost-effective in providing broadband service.
Applications will be reviewed based on a point system that will award points based on:
- Level of Impact in the Proposed Service Area (20 points)
- Affordability of Services Offered (10 points)
- Technical Approach and Related Network Capacity and Performance (20 points)
- Applicant’s Organizational Capability (20 points)
- Reasonableness of the Budget (10 points)
- Sustainability of the Project (15 points)
- Leverage of Non-Federal Resources (5 points)
Only projects receiving at least 70 points will be qualified for funding.
NTIA said previously that it expects to complete its review and select successful applications by November 15, 2021.
The NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program is an example of the way government broadband funding programs seem to be moving.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed the Senate would not rely much, if at all, on a reverse auction approach such as what the FCC used in the Rural Broadband Experiments and Connect America Fund programs, but instead would emphasize a merit-based approach.
Like the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program, broadband programs proposed in the Senate infrastructure bill also would have greater involvement on the part of the states.
NTIA said the applications it has received for the Broadband Infrastructure Program include projects in 49 states and U.S. territories.