The NTIA and RUS announced the first round of the broadband stimulus program generated 2,200 applications, requesting $28 billion in funding. All 50 states and territories, as well as the District of Columbia were represented. Considering the first round only makes a little over $4 billion available, some applicants are going to come up short.
Given the flood of applications, it’s no wonder the NTIA is renewing its call for volunteer reviewers. According to a government press release, applications came in from a diverse range of parties including state, local, and tribal governments; nonprofits; industry; anchor institutions, such as libraries, universities, community colleges, and hospitals; public safety organizations; and other entities in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
NTIA and RUS provided the following breakdown of applicant funding requests:
- Infrastructure – More than 260 applications were filed solely with NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), requesting over $5.4 billion in grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas. More than 400 applications were filed solely with RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), requesting nearly $5 billion in grants and loans for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas. More than 830 applications were filed with both NTIA’s BTOP and RUS’s BIP, requesting nearly $12.8 billion in infrastructure funding. (Applicants for infrastructure projects in rural areas must apply to BIP but were given the opportunity to jointly apply to BTOP in case RUS declines to fund their application.)
- Sustainable Broadband Adoption – More than 320 applications were filed with NTIA requesting nearly $2.5 billion in grants from BTOP for projects that promote sustainable demand for broadband services, including projects to provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment or support, particularly among vulnerable population groups where broadband technology has traditionally been underutilized. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $250 million available for programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services, of which up to $150 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)
- Public Computer Centers – More than 360 applications were filed with NTIA requesting more than $1.9 billion in grants from BTOP for public computer center projects, which will expand access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that provide the benefits of broadband to the general public or specific vulnerable populations. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $200 million available for expanding public computer center capacity, of which up to $50 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)
Now comes the fun part – selecting the winning applications. NTIA and RUS say a searchable database containing summaries of all received applications will be available in the coming weeks. Winning applicants are supposed to be notified no later than early November, after going through a two stage selection process.