The Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the $7.2 billion broadband grant program (part of the stimulus package) has just been released. The program consists of two components: the $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), and the $2.5 billion Rural Utilities Service Broadband Investment Program administered by the Department of Agriculture.
The goal of this program in general is to bring broadband to unserved and underserved “populations.” In addition, there is language in the BTOP that supports expanding broadband within the public safety sector.
Specifically, there are three categories for which funds will be available:
- Broadband infrastructure
- Last mile and middle mile development
- Public computer centers
- Public access to broadband
- Sustainable broadband adoption
- Projects promoting increased demand for broadband services/applications
One interesting component is the definition of broadband: 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream. This is a slower transfer rate than many would have expected. This will be welcomed news by the carriers/ISPs.
Applications are due by August 14, and awards must be made by September 30, 2010. Announcement of awards should begin around November 7, 2009.
Let the scrambling begin. This announcement has been long-awaited by commercial and private organizations with an interest in broadband adoption. Expect to see potentially thousands of applications for these funds. The NTIA will have a difficult time sorting through these and establishing priorities, particularly since they have never been involved in administering anywhere close to this amount of grant dollars.
Hopefully, public safety, a key “underserved population” will be recognized appropriately. Government contractors in this space will do well to hone their value propositions and look for ways to team with other IP-based technology players and organizations.
Rumor has it he will announce this with Vice PA new leader of the FCC saw his first full day at the office today. Julius Genachowski, a former senior advisor at the FCC, is taking over the reigns at the FCC at a particularly interesting time.