The Federal Communications Commission and the two federal agencies charged with managing the distribution of broadband stimulus funds--the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)--held a forum in Washington, D.C., yesterday to discuss their plans for granting funds. A few more details became clear, though it still is not yet apparent how the agencies will decide if a particular market meets the program's qualifications for being unserved or underserved. The FCC plans to seek public comment on that issue beginning next month. Also, until March 25, the FCC is accepting public comment on the best ways to efficiently expand broadband in rural areas.
While the Rural Utilities Services division of the USDA earlier said it plans to award its part of the broadband stimulus program-about $2.5 billion of the total $7.2 billion-by Sept. 30 of this year, the NTIA said it will distribute its $4.7 billion portion in three phases to occur this spring, this fall and in the spring of 2010.
Other details that are becoming clear include the rule that some amount of broadband stimulus funds must be directed toward projects in each of the 50 states. That, according to Telephony, suggests an average of less than $140 million per state, though some states could receive more than others. The NTIA also said it might spend up to $350 million on broadband mapping and several hundred million more on programs to promote broadband adoption and put more computers in schools.
Yet, for every substantial detail, there appear to be many more vague areas where broadband stimulus plans are concerned. BusinessWeek and other publications reported that many people attending yesterday's forum criticized the lack of detail after the government agencies had very little to offer on the issue of what qualifications markets will have to meet to be defined as "underserved." That was predicted to be one of the major stumbling blocks for broadband stimulus distribution, and its looks as if those predictions will come true.
The RUS plans to distribute stimulus funds this year
About $7.2 billion was set aside for broadband stimulus