StimulatingBroadband.com 04/13/09 Boston - The public comment period for input to the two federal agencies writing grant guidelines for the total $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funding contained in the American Recovery and Renewal Act of 2009 (ARRA) closes today, April 13, at 12:00 midnight (EDT), local time in Washington DC. A federal agency spokesman further stated today that a target date of June 12 has been set for issuance of funding guidelines for the broadband grants and loans.
Mr. Mark Tolbert, Spokesperson for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the US Department of Commerce, confirmed for StimulatingBroadband.com late this afternoon that the public comment portal at the NTIA website would close this evening at midnight.
Importantly, Tolbert also confirmed that NTIA has set a "target of approximately 60 days" from today for official promulgation of its Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA). The NOFA will provide grant and loan applicants for all ARRA broadband stimulus funds, with guidelines for how to apply, and what selection criteria will be used for evaluation of applications. Tolbert also stated that there will not be another public comment round, nor period for reply comments as is common in proceedings of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), between now and the release of the NOFA on or about June 12.
Mr. Tolbert's statement, giving this 60-day target cycle for issuance of the NOFA from today's comment deadline is more specific than the range recently given by NTIA Policy Advisor Mark Seifert on April 2 to a House Subcommittee. In testimony to the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, chaired by Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), Seifert stated that NTIA estimated release of the grant guidelines would take "a couple of months".
In filed written testimony, Seifert stated, "A Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) will be published as expeditiously as possible, likely in the next couple of months, that will describe in detail how the application process will work, how we will evaluate the applications, as well as how grantees will be held accountable, including requirements for progress reports and job creation measurements, to ensure that taxpayer investments are protected."
"We will be releasing a Notice of Funds Availability," stated Tolbert this afternoon in a telephone interview "which will spell out criteria and instructions which lead into the application process."
The NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) portal has been receiving public comments, which are made jointly to NTIA and to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) division of the US Department of Agriculture, since opening on March 10. Over this 34-day period, just over 1,150 comments had been posted to the public comment site by Monday afternoon.
Just over 180 comments have been filed today alone, up to 5:30 pm (EDT). Comments posted today come from a diverse range of commentators, as has been typical of the previous postings. Comments today included those filed by New Jersey Governor John Corzine, by Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT) the large American manufacturer of wireless infrastructure and personal wireless terminals and cell phones, by the Administration of Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, by the City of New York, by several telecommunications wireline and wireless carriers, and by Mayor Mark Hipsher of Grainger County, Tennessee.
The broadband stimulus provisions of ARRA appropriated a total of $7.2 billion for grants, loans, and loan guarantee funds to be dispersed by the 2 federal agencies.
The public may post public comments via the NTIA-BTOP site at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/form.cfm
Comments posted to date may be read and downloaded at: ht tp://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comments.cfm