July 01, 2009, 7:45 PM — The U.S. government Wednesday said that it is releasing $4 billion worth of funds to pay for the first round of broadband projects mandated by the economic stimulus package passed earlier this year.
The released funds represent well over half of the $7.2 billion that the government has allotted to fund broadband infrastructure investment over the next two years. Of that money, $4.7 billion has been given to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to award grants for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in unserved or under-served areas, to deliver broadband capabilities for public safety agencies and to stimulate broadband demand through training and education. The remaining $2.5 billion in broadband stimulus money has been allotted to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
The money released Wednesday is intended to pay for the first of three rounds of projects. The government says that it will start accepting applications for the first round of projects on July 14 and that the final deadline this round of applications will be Aug. 14. Under the rough timeline released by the government earlier this year, the second round of broadband stimulus funds are expected to be released in the fall while the final round are slated to be released in the spring of 2010. The stimulus package mandates that all funds for broadband stimulus must be allotted by the end of September next year.
Under the terms released by the government Wednesday, broadband stimulus funds to going to be delivered through two programs: the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which will be administered by the NTIA; and the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), which will be administered by the USDA.
The goal of BTOP will be to fund broadband adoption in any under-served areas of the country, with a focus on building broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and broadband promotion and education programs. BIP, meanwhile, will be focused more specifically on under-served rural areas that the government deems lacking in "sufficient access to high-speed broadband service to facilitate economic development."