Rural Utilities Service on track with broadband funding awards

The deadline to parse out its portion of broadband stimulus grants may be looming large, but the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is confident that it will get all of the money out to recipients on time.

With $3.6 billion in grants already having been awarded to fund 307 projects, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is going to award $2.5 billion in grants and loans to fund other rural broadband projects before the Thursday deadline.

Beating the RUS to the punch was the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which on Monday announced that it awarded the last $4 billion in broadband stimulus funding under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) in addition to the $350 million that was designated for broadband mapping projects.

In total, the BTOP program funded mainly 233 "middle mile" broadband projects such as Independent Optical Network and the Open Cape initiative that were designed to extend high bandwidth services to various anchor institutions including schools, libraries and hospitals.

Now that the grants have been awarded, the next obvious step for NTIA will be to ensure that the grant money is being spent to meet the three-year project deadline.  

Although initial telco holdouts Qwest and Windstream eventually joined the broadband race after rules were altered, cable operators continue to maintain that the money will be used to fund projects to overbuild areas where incumbent cable and telcos have widely deployed it already.

For more:
- Multichannel News article chronicles USDA awards
- and this article lays out the NTIA awards

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Broadband stimulus: An enabler, not a panacea
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