Monday, April 27, 2009

NTIA Release Date for Broadband Stimulus Grant Notice Is Still Fluid 04/27/09 A specific date for the release, by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), of the agency's Notice of Availability of Funds (NOFA) which will give specific guidelines for the first grant round of 'broadband stimulus' monies remains a fluid target date. Rumors had circulated late last week on various Twitter outlets stating specific dates in late June for release of the NOFA.

NTIA Spokesperson Mark Tolbert this afternoon stated in an e-mail to, "A date has not yet been etched in stone for the release of the Notice of Funds Availability. As mentioned earlier, it is likely to be released within the next couple months, early this summer."

We had previously reported Mr. Tolbert's statements relative to the pending NOFA release date in a posting of April 13. That was the closing date for public comments filed with NTIA relative to the agency's administration of the $4.7 billion in funds to be dispersed via grants from its Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). Mr. Tolbert at that time had set a 'target date' of 60 days out from the April 13 comment closing. In doing so he had given slightly greater specificity for a NOFA release date than had NTIA Senior Advisor Mark Seifert the previous week in Congressional testimony. On April 2, Mr. Seifert had testified to the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet that the NOFA would be issued in "a couple of months."

The funds to be administered by NTIA are part of the total of $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus appropriations from the American Recovery and Renewal Act of 2009 (ARRA). The balance of the funds will be dispersed by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

We believe that the Obama Administration is working quickly to promulgate criteria for grant review, to set priorities for broadband programs in both "underserved" and "unserved" regions of the country as such terms are specified in ARRA, and to align federal purposes established in the Act with state broadband initiatives. We will not be surprised if the '60 day' estimated figure takes us into early July, given the complexity of the policy and technical issues at stake. The rumors and speculation about the pending NOFA speak to the high level of interest that the broadband stimulus provisions of ARRA have created in both US telecom industry and in rural economic development constituencies.

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