Thursday, December 17, 2009

NTIA's Strickling: "300 - 400" Broadband Stimulus Applications Now in Due Diligence Phase 12/17/09 San Francisco - Lawrence E. Strickling, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) yesterday stated that "300 to 400" project applications for broadband stimulus funding are now being reviewed for grant and loan awards in the 'due diligence phase' of the federal government's application review process.

This is the first time a federal official has made a direct statement estimating how many applications are in the final evaluation pipeline as agencies scramble to issue funding Round I awards by an unspecified time in February 2010.

Administrator Strickling gave that answer to a direct question asked by during a media conference call with officials of the Obama Administration convened yesterday to discuss today's announcement of the first 18 broadband stimulus funding awards. We posed the question, "How many total project applications have been moved to the due diligence phase of the review process from among the approximate 2,200 applications filed in August?"

Today's awards, representing $182 million from an expected 'total program spend' of $12 - $13 billion, are for projects in the entire group of nearly 2,200 applications filed by the final deadline of this past August 20th. The balance between the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus monies appropriated by Congress in the Recovery Act and the estimated total dollar value to be expended by the program is attributable to the significant loan leverage capacity managed by the
Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. RUS is NTIA's sister agency co-managing the broadband program.

Under rules issued by the 2 agencies, review of of each application is slated to go through a two tiered process. Phase II, or the due diligence phase of the process, is a series of detailed investigations of specific applications winnowed down from the initial universe of all project funding requests. Included in the due diligence phase is the evaluation by the agencies of the Public Notice Filings issued by incumbent telecommunications carriers arguing that they already are providing broadband services in an applicant's "proposed service area."

Unknown at this time is if the "300 to 400" number means that some 1,800 applications have been rejected to date, or if an even higher number will be passed into the due diligence phase. We have asked agency officials for clarification about the application processing numbers as stated by Mr. Strickling yesterday, and will report answers as we receive them.
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