NTIA, RUS delay broadband grant awards

If you're a service provider or a local government agency waiting to see if you'll get a funding grant for your broadband project, your wait is going to get longer. Citing ongoing confusion over the application process and the definition of remote areas, the National Telecommunications Industry Association (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) decided to wait about a month to name the recipients of broadband stimulus grants.

Although the organizations had initially set early November as a deadline, Larry Strickling, head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration said during a Senate oversight hearing: "We're going to take a few more weeks here to get this right... I will not fund a bad application."

Two key concerns amongst Senators participating in this week's hearing were that the grant/loan program was too complex and the definition of remote areas, which is currently defined as at least 50 miles from an urban area, is still unclear. The complexity of the application process, argued Jay Rockefeller, could discourage smaller service providers and even cities/towns from applying for funding.

Interestingly, the decision to delay the funding awards comes amidst protests from both the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and US Telecom who said they have identified a number of applications that are asking for money to fund broadband deployments in areas already being served by a major telco or cable MSO. The argument here is that the broadband stimulus was designed to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas--two elements that have been of continual industry debate.

Comcast, which along with the major telcos decided to opt out of the broadband stimulus funding race, has filed comments with officials citing that it uncovered several applications that are targeting areas they already serve.

For more:
- Broadcasting and Cable has this article
- Wall Street Journal also has this article

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