The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) reported this week that they received about 2,200 applications for about $28 billion in the first round of broadband project funding. Applicants also pledged $10.5 billion in matching funds, bringing the total cost of proposed projects to more than $38 billion. This is the first round of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding (including $4 billion in loans, grants and loan/grant combinations) to help service providers and state & local governments enhance broadband access and adoption.
"Applicants requested nearly seven times the amount of funding available, which demonstrates the substantial interest in expanding broadband across the Nation," said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA, in a release. "We will move quickly but carefully to fund the best projects to bring broadband and jobs to more Americans."
A diverse set of applicants, including state & local governments, non-profit organizations, education institutions, hospitals and public safety organizations, applied for the $2.4 billion the RUS made available and the $1.6 billion the NTIA is administering.
Despite NTIA and RUS's optimism, not everyone is convinced the broadband act is a good idea. Citing concerns over the net neutrality rules and the definition of underserved communities, the three largest Tier 1 telcos (AT&T, Verizon and Qwest) opted to not apply for the funding. But it appears that the largest Tier 2 telcos also decided against applying for the funds. Michael Genovese, an analyst of Elevate Research said in a report on Wednesday that large Tier 2 telcos (Centurylink, Frontier, Windstream and Consolidated Communications) also decided not to apply for the funding, citing similar concerns.
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