Friday, January 29, 2010

NTIA Begins to Post List of Rejected Broadband Stimulus Applications 01-29-2010 San Francisco - The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has today begun to publicly post a listing of the 1,400 applications for broadband stimulus funding which have been rejected to date.

NTIA, one of two federal agencies administering the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program, today has issued significant information updates to the Applications Database portion of the site which is the lead public facing online resource for the program.

As of Friday afternoon, 639 records in the database have been updated to show as an "Application Not Funded by BTOP," while 667 records now display the "Status" of "Application Not Funded."

We are not able to confirm at this time the distinction between these 2 status categories, especially since the 667 record universe is listed as "BTOP" as the funding program proposed by their respective applicants. BTOP, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is manged by NTIA. We are placing inquiries to the appropriate federal agencies to ask for clarification of this point.

As initially suggested today to us by Washington-based attorney Paul Sinderbrand, none of the listed applications now showing in either "Not Funded" status had been submitted for funding to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. RUS, with a 60 year legacy of funding rural telecom projects, is the sister agency of NTIA jointly manging the broadband stimulus program. RUS has branded its portion of the overall program the Broadband Inititatives Program (BIP).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Congress Needs To Do Now to Fix the Broadband Stimulus Program

A Commentary from 01-27-2010 San Francisco - An important Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee opens its oversight hearing of the Commerce Department's portion of the $ 7.2 billion broadband stimulus program tomorrow morning, January 28th.

Given the forward rushing events that define the program, the following is our list of critical directives which the Subcommittee and other appropriate Committees on the Hill need to give to the 2 Departments - Agriculture, and Commerce - charged with managing the $ 7.2 billion program.

Yes, we know our civics and constitutional law about how specific legislation needs to be crafted to 'direct' the Executive to do anything. Hopefully that is why the people holding the power of the purse, on Senate Appropriations, are having a hearing. Powerful Committees of Congress often suggest things that mere agency mortals ignore at their peril.

Unless these items are implemented by the appropriate agencies (NTIA and RUS) immediatley, broadband stimulus applicants will not have the needed information nor time to make rational decisions about how to apply for and spend public dollars. The risk of programmatic waste, fraud, and abuse -- a risk already reported to Congress by the GAO -- will escalate.

Frankly, the list is tedious, longer than it needs to be, and more detailed than it should be. It is so given that general pledges of "a fully, open and transparent process" don't cut it any longer. Even those pledges made by agency chiefs in congressional testimony haven't been carried out. More pledges, more promises, won't work. Only action taken by Congress at this point will work.

Congress should order the two Departments, and their applicable agencies (NTIA and RUS), to:

1. Direct the Publication of an Immediate Round I Application Pipeline Update
In no venue has either agency released any coherent information about how many applications in total have been moved into the due diligence phase by gross counts, let alone by each program (BIP vs. BTOP), or by each project category (Middle Mile, Last Mile, Public Computer Centers, Sustainable Adoption). Some media reports have given scattered information, when some of us are able to nail done some numbers, numbers which quickly go out of date as the Round I award cycle progresses.

Confirmed information has been so difficult to determine that an Editor at GigaOm, one of the nation's leading tech sector publications, could not account for the program's total appropriations as Round I's first awards were announced.

The Update should be changed daily as pre-due diligence phase rejections, due diligence phase rejections, and final awards are made.

2. Direct A Minimum 30-Day Period Between Round I Final Awards and the Round II the Applications Filing Deadline
As per current confirmed media reporting, based on attributed statements from official agency spokespeople, there will be only a 2 week window between the time all Round I awards are announced and the Round II application filing deadline. The rules of both agencies explicitly state that (leaving aside allowable minor 'overlap areas') no Round II proposed service area will be eligible if a Round I award was made for the same territory.

As recently pointed out by the online publication Fierce Broadband Wireless, two weeks is simply not enough time to target proposed areas and write a legitimate application for them, based on the Round I award information. This is particularly true of the large scale middle mile projects, with their Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) requirements directed by the new NTIA rules (BTOP NOFA).

No one can seriously believe that 2 weeks is sufficient time to target a service area and write a legitimate application, especially since as broadband fiber advocate Geoff Daily points out the experience of Round I providers and public sector entities demonstrates that the application process can span into months of time and tens of thousands of dollars.

3. Direct A Minimum 30-Day Period Between The Public Release of Data, As Specified Below, and the Round II Applications Filing Deadline
Given the inability or unwillingness of the agencies to release transparent data needed for program transparency, Congress needs to direct that a 30-day standstill period occur after the agencies have finally released their information, and prior to the Round II application filing deadline. The agencies need to be given a disincentive for continued noncompliance with what should be a transparent approach to the spending of public funds.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already reported to Congress that the tight time frames and present lack of adequate national broadband mapping "may pose risks of waste, fraud, and abuse." (Report: .PDF) Continued withholding of what should be public data by the agencies only increases these risks.

4. Direct the Immediate Release of All State (Gubernatorial) Recommendations to NTIA Made in Round I
Despite the efforts of several of us in the sector, 6 - 10 states and territories still have refused to release for public inspection the recommendations made by state and territorial governors to NTIA for Round I projects. This critical information needs to be made public immediately by NTIA, without acceding to further foot dragging by a handful of recalcitrant governors, at least some of whom could care less about broadband in their states to begin with.

5. Direct the Immediate Release of All Awarded and Rejected Round I Applications, as Such Awards and Rejections Are Issued
Round I applicants, and entities considering Round II filings, need to understand what worked and what did not in Round I. As of now, the agencies are still not releasing even the non-proprietary data from either awarded or rejected applications.

Direct the Immediate Release of All Agency Scoring and Other Review Information Relative to Rejected Round I Applications
Akin to # 5, above, prospective applicants need to understand the details of why certain applicants received awards, and and why most did not. As Geoff Daily suggested this week, the best information to inform these questions is retained by the agencies as scoring data produced by the review process itself.

Even when proposed network projects reach toward $100 million price tags, neither agency has agreed to release the scoring information to the public, or even to applicants. The need for fully transparent data in this regard is especially clear as it is today impossible to determine what weight was assigned to the many Public Notice Filings by incumbent carriers against Round I applicants. Although the NTIA Administrator has testified to Congress that 'the incumbents do not have a veto,' we have no way to confirm this has been the case during the review process.

Direct the Publication of the Application Database Census Tract Information to Verify Proposed Service Territories
As the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) petitioned NTIA and RUS in a letter of last week, the federal online application mapping tool "is of limited utility to potential applicants. With respect to granted applications, it does not identify which areas are covered by Middle Mile projects, and which are covered by Last Mile projects." Many broadband mapping specialists and grant application consultants have complained for months that the mapping tool simply does not provide information of sufficient granularity to support the application process.

The wireless trade group goes on to state, "Moreover, with respect to pending applications, the mapping tool does not specify the number of applications pending for a given area or identify the applicants. Thus, the potential applicant for a given area cannot make a rational attempt at assessing whether a pending first tranche application will be denied, making the area available for second tranche funding."

WCAI has suggested to the agencies a simple and readily available solution to the application mapping tool's obvious problems: release data in-hand at the agencies, as contained in the Public Notice Filing database "...which was blocked once the 30-day response period passed."

Full Disclosure:
For the first time in nearly a year of attempting to objectively report on the details and strategy of the program, today in advance of the first oversight hearing of 2010 relating to broadband stimulus, I have stepped out of what I hope has been for most of our readers an objective reporting and analysis role.

I do so to call on Congress to save the program from itself.

I do so given the legitimate and serious concerns that many of us in the "bbstim" community have with the current choices NTIA and RUS have made to engage in public information practices unworthy of an Administration dedicated to openess and transparency.

I do so hoping that Congress starts to do its job, and brigs true oversight to an important federal effort that needs immediate fixing. I do so because the agencies running the program simply are not listening to those of us most involved in the grant and loan application process -- to those of us that have called, implored, and written about these issues.

I surrender to no one my place as a huge booster of the federal broadband stimulus program, of the Recovery Act, and of the Administration of President Obama. I have spent an entire career in both competitive (yes, that means non-Bell System) cable and telecom, and in the policies and politics of the Democratic persuasion. No one could be more thrilled about the spectacular effort the President, and the Democratic Congress, are making to finally advance the national interest in ubiquitous broadband availability and adoption than I am.

Although some of us who are both of the Democratic persuasion, and from Massachusetts, may feel compelled to proverbially shoot each other in the life boats right now, my goal here is just the opposite.
Those of us who believe strongly in the agenda of our President to aggressively deploy ubiquitous broadband facilities for the benefit of our nation need to stand up with constructive criticism, and detail level suggestions to fix the glaring problems with the broadband stimulus program. I have attempted to do so here.

Although I reference other commentators, reporters, and a trade association, this Commentary is fully my own. Comments are welcome, below, or by clicking: here.

- Peter J. Pratt; Editor and Publisher,

Broadband Stimulus Oversight: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on 01-28

Update: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee oversight hearing has been changed to a new strat time of 9:30 a.m. (ET). Our thanks to Washington attorney Paul Sinderbrand for letting us know of the change. 01/27/2010 San Francisco -
The Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee will hold an oversight hearing tomorrow, Thursday, January 28, 2010, on the "Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."

The hearing is the first Congressional oversight proceeding relative to the federal broadband stimulus program held in 2010, and the first since the spate of House and Senate hearings in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The witness list for the hearing states that the only 2 scheduled witnesses are Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Larry Strickling, the Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

We believe that Secretary Locke's testimony will mark the first time a cabinet secretary within the Obama Administration has testified to Congress specifically about the broadband stimulus program within the Recovery Act. Additionally we believe this is the first oversight hearing of the program to be conducted by the Appropriations Committee of either the U.S. House or Senate.

The Subcommittee is chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulsi (D-MD), who is the fourth Democratic member in terms of seniority on the full Appropriations Committee, of which Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) is the Chairman.

The following is verbatim copy from the Subcommittee press release, issued 01/22/2010:

Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee (Chairwoman Mikulski)

Thursday, January 28, 2010 Time and Location: 9:30 a.m., Dirksen 192

Agenda: Oversight of the Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

*Witnesses: Panel 1:
The Honorable Gary Locke Secretary U.S. Department of Commerce
The Honorable Lawrence E. Strickling Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information U.S. Department of Commerce and Administrator National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

*Witness list is subject to change and/or addition.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

USDA-RUS on Broadband Stimulus: All Rejection and Award Letters to be Issued by Late February

Rejection Letters out by mid-February; Awards by February 28
NTIA – RUS Target Date 01-26-2010 San Francisco - The Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (RUS-USDA) will issue all of its Round I due diligence rejection letters to broadband stimulus applicants by mid-February. Additionally, and critically, the agency now has as its stated goal the announcement by February 28 of all Round I broadband stimulus awards under its Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). is reporting this information, in the first confirmed and officially attributed information from a federal official, based on our several communications over the past 24 hours with Mr. Bart Kendrick, spokesperson for the RUS broadband stimulus program.

Mr. Kendrick stated to us yesterday in writing, “I’m thinking the rejection letters will be out in the next 1 to 2 weeks.” He further confirmed that all such letters will be issued by “mid-February.” Mr. Kendrick is in Portland, in the traveling party with RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein, for the first federal workshop explaining the details of program's Round II funding cycle to prospective applicants.

Recipients of the due diligence rejection letters will not be passed to Phase II, the due diligence phase, of the agency’s review process.

The “end of next month” date is the same target set by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for announcement of all of its Round I awards, as nationally first reported by this news service last Friday. NTIA manages the collateral Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) within the overall total $7.2 billion federal program,

This morning, Mr. Kendrick sent us a written statement saying, “Latest input is that we will follow same schedule as NTIA” for the announcement of all Round I awards.

We were following-up on the confirmed and on the record statement given to us last Friday by Mr. Kendrick’s colleague, Jessica Schafer of NTIA, to the effect that all of that agency’s due diligence rejection letters will be issued by “the end of January.” Ms. Schafer further stated that all NTIA awards, for the agency’s BTOP will be announced “by the end of February.”

The key issue at stake for broadband stimulus Round I and Round II applicants is: Will RUS similarly have its awards issued by February 28, or will the 2 week potential gap between issuance of NTIA and RUS due diligence rejection letters push the USDA’s final awards of Round I grants and loans into March? This question is of significant importance to the entire broadband stimulus community, as the recently issued rules for funding Round II set the application filing deadline for that proceeding is March 15.

Mr. Kendrick’s statement to about a joint NTIA – RUS target date for final announcements of all Round I awards is current clarification of the general point with both NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling, and RUS chief Jonathan Adelstein have made repeatedly in congressional testimony. Both agency heads have said that all Round I awards will be announced prior to the application filing deadline for Round II.

In order that NTIA and RUS meet the joint target deadline of late February, one expert in the field believes that RUS will comingle its due diligence and final award rejection letters.

“This appears to me to be part of the standard and even handed process typically engaged in by RUS in its legacy telecom support programs,” stated Ms. Liz Zucco of MarketSYS USA, a federal telecom funding consultancy based in Canton, GA.

“RUS has the field staff, and the retained consultants, to put the resources into the effort in order to meet the target timeframe of late February for all 3 groups of announcments to applicants: due diligence letters, final rejection, and final awards," concluded Ms. Zucco.

Massachusetts Governor Patrick: 'We Will Work Overtime' in Round II for Middle Mile Project 01-26-2010 San Francisco - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) has just announced that his Administration will proceed into Round II of the federal broadband stimulus program, with one or more applications, seeking funding for the Western Massachusetts middle mile project rejected recently by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Governor's Office released the following statement to within the last several minutes:

“I am obviously disappointed by this development, but no less committed to getting the job done. Our team will work overtime to ensure that the application is approved in the second round. Meanwhile, we will proceed with state resources to bridge the digital divide for students, business owners and every other citizen in western Massachusetts."

The written statement was sent to us, flowing our inquiry, by Ms. Kofi Jones, Director of Communications and External Affairs, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. EOHED is the cabinet secretariat within the Patrick Administration that oversees the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the state economic developmental authority which applied to NTIA for the $100 million in broadband

Breaking News: Large Middle Mile Project in Massachusetts Rejected by U.S. Dept. Commerce - NTIA

Round I Rejection of $ 100 Million Project Is First for Large State Middle Mile Proposal, Demonstrates Merit and Fiscal Based Criteria of NTIA Rather Than Straight Political Influence 01-26-2010 San Francisco -
One of the largest proposed state supported middle mile broadband stimulus projects in the nation, that of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), targeted at the underserved areas of rural Western Massachusetts, has been rejected by the U.S. Department of Commerce for funding Round I of the federal broadband stimulus program.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) announced that his Administration applied to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) arm of the Commerce Department for the $100 million project in August of 2009.

As we see it, the news is significant for 3 primary reasons:

1. The MBI middle mile project, is 1 of a handful of the large such state supported projects applied for in funding Round I of the federal broadband stimulus program, each in the range of $100 million in total requested funding.

The rejection indicates 1 or both of 2 factors are at play: The $100 million price tag may be too rich for the NTIA's overall programmatic budget. Just as likely, the Massachusetts middle mile application had several flaws in it. We think included in the latter was too aggressive a strategy of 'overbuilding' existing telecom networks in place, and not demonstrating sustainable revenues going forward from last mile network operators committed to using the middle mile fiber for intra- and inter-region transport.

2. Governor Patrick (left, with Congressman John Olver (D-MA-1) and former MBI Director Sharon E. Gillett), one of the nation's Democratic governors most closely aligned politically with President Barrack Obama, has made broadband deployment in Western Massachusetts a cornerstone of his in-state economic developmental program for the Bay State's most rural area. Virtually all of the in-region economic development agencies supported the plan.

NTIA's rejection indicates the high threshold for middle mile projects even when universal support of such projects, as infrastructure based drivers of economic development, is expressed in funding applications by economic developers.

3. The Western Massachusetts project has had the universal support of the entire array of Massachusetts-based Democratic elected and appointed federal officials now in key positions of power and policy influence relative to telecommunications issues in Washington.

As we have frequently reported in the past, included in this formidable array of officials focused on the current Democratic telecom policy agenda, are U.S. Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA), Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA-7); former MBI Director Sharon E. Gillett, who was appointed in late July as Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and Senator Kerry's brother, Cameron F. 'Cam' Kerry, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The rejection of the project demonstrates that broadband stimulus awards issued by NTIA will not be controlled merely by political considerations or influence from the governing Democratic coalition now holding sway on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps surprisingly to the harshest critics of the broadband stimulus program, merit is key in the highly competitive process. will continue to report on the details of the project, and on its rejection announced today by the Patrick Administration with further analysis and local reaction.

The following is a verbatim copy of the statement released at 1:52 PM (ET) time today by MBI (our links added):

"The Massachusetts Broadband Institute has been informed by the U.S. Department of Commerce that the applications of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and WesternMA Connect are no longer in the running for federal stimulus awards in Round 1 under the BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program).

While we are very disappointed by this development, we will work to ensure the Round 2 applications are ultimately approved. Our commitment to broadband connectivity is unwavering, and bringing this vital resource to the unserved and underserved regions of western Massachusetts remains one of our highest economic development priorities.

We recognize that it has been a challenge for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to implement these new broadband stimulus programs under the Recovery Act quickly. The MBI put forward a strong application detailing opportunities for significant job creation, business growth and educational advancement. We are convinced the MBI made a credible and compelling case when scored against the NTIA’s own criteria. Our commitment to broadband expansion in western Massachusetts remains strong.

We are currently pulling fiber-optic cable along 55 miles of I-91, and this work will continue to serve as a critical component of our network in western Massachusetts. With state funds already available under Governor Patrick’s Broadband Act, we are working aggressively to determine how best to move forward in the absence of immediate federal stimulus funding for broadband. While we are unhappy about today’s news, we will make access to affordable, quality broadband a reality for the residents of western Massachusetts."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Secretary Vilsack Announces $310 Million in USDA-RUS Broadband Stimulus Awards

U.S. Department of Commerce Press Release via 01-25-2010 San Francisco - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of fourteen Recovery Act Broadband Infrastructure projects that will receive $309,923,352 through funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

An additional $3,551,887 in private investment brings the total to $313,475,239. Altogether, Congress awarded USDA $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding to help bring broadband services to rural un-served and underserved communities.

"The Obama Administration will strengthen communities in rural areas through these broadband investments and provide employment opportunities, building a solid foundation for future economic growth," Vilsack said. "The awards for these broadband projects will support anchor institutions – such as libraries, public buildings and community centers – that are necessary for the viability of rural communities."

In rural Burleigh County, N.D., for example, the BEK Communications Cooperative has been selected to receive a $2 million grant and $2 million loan with an additional $2 million in leveraged funds. The company will expand the existing system to offer fiber-to-the-premises service to more than 540 homes and anchor institutions that are currently underserved. The existing system provides service to 53 percent of the population in the area, and among the current users, 22 percent derive household income from the Internet. This expansion is expected to stimulate economic growth by bringing on new users.

Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement. Below is a complete list of recent Recovery Act Broadband award recipients by state:

Southwestern Alaska, United Utilities, $43,982,240 grant and $44,158,522 loan. The funding will provide middle mile connectivity to 65 communities.

Butler, Butler Telephone Co., Inc., $3,892,920 grant. The funding will provide high speed DSL broadband service to remote, unserved households within its rural service territory. The system is being built so that it can be easily upgraded to accommodate future services.

San Joaquin, Tranquillity, and Fresno, Audeamus, $2,741,505 grant and $2,741,505 loan. The proposed project is a fiber-based broadband infrastructure for the unserved and underserved communities in this service area. A last-mile project, it will provide access to approximately 1,500 households, local businesses and anchor institutions in the communities.

Meriden and Archer, C-M-L Telephone Cooperative Association, $1,519,225 grant and $1,519,225 loan, $1,525,315 in matching funds. Funding will provide services via a fiber optic network to rural communities with high speed internet exceeding 20 Mbps.

Bennett, Delmar, and Lowden, F & B Communications, Inc., $1,609,162 grant and
$1,628,588 loan. Funding will provide services via high speed fiber optic network with speeds exceeding 20Mbps. System will allow for expansion at a future date.

Springbrook, LaMotte Telephone Company, $187,815 grant, and $187,815 loan. The funding will provide services from a 300-foot tower and Wi-Max installation for wireless broadband service in the surrounding area.

Kansas (1% of the network is to be built in Nebraska)
Western Kansas, Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc., $49,588,807 grant and $51,612,842 loan. Funding will provide service in an area 99.5 percent unserved/underserved and provide a rural infrastructure required for economic stability, education and healthcare. The company is a cooperative and RUS partner on 32 other projects. It leads a team of seven companies with this shovel-ready project.

Tennessee (1% of the network is to be built in Kentucky)
Northern Tennessee, North Central Telephone Cooperative, Inc., $24,715,709 grant and $24,964,000 loan. The funding will provide the necessary infrastructure to provide advanced voice, video, and data services that exceed 20Mbps to remote and rural communities in the service area.

Morehouse Parish, Northeast Louisiana Telephone Company, Inc., $4,359,000 grant and $8,124,600 loan. Funding will provide an active Ethernet system with symmetrical speeds of 20 Mbps. The system will be using buried fiber to the premise.

Ralls County, Ralls County Electric Cooperative, $9,548,908 grant and $9,548,909 loan. Funding for this project will provide a fiber optic network to residential and commercial members and the underserved safety and anchor agencies in the service area. This is a State of Missouri demonstration project and non-proprietary data will be shared.

North Dakota
Burleigh County; BEK Communications Cooperative, $1,986,473 grant and $2,016,571 loan; $2,016,572 in leveraged funds. The funding will provide fiber-to-the-premises broadband service to underserved homes and anchor institutions. This will aid business growth and support public safety in rural areas highly dependent on Internet business income.

Traill County; Halstad Telephone Company, $2,027,600 grant and $2,027,600 loan; $10,000 in leveraged funds. The funding will provide fiber-to-the premises broadband service to unserved homes and businesses in Traill County.

Marion County, Gervais telephone Company, $314,430 grant and $314,430 loan. This project extends Gervais Telephone Company's existing fiber network by building out from the nearest fiber splice point through the funded service area. This project will provide broadband connectivity to residential and business end users, as well as to four anchor institutions.

Alleghany County, NTELOS Telephone Inc., $8,062,088 grant and $8,062,088 loan. The funds will provide broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved homes, businesses and critical community institutions in this rural county. A fiber-based project, it will enable work-from-home jobs and foster economic development, and improve health, education and public safety services to the county citizens.

President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on Feb. 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Carole Wallace Post Takes Helm at New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications

Mayor Bloomberg with Carole Wallace Post.
December 30, 2009
(Photo Credit: Edward Reed) 01/24/2010 San Francisco - Ms. Carole Wallace Post began work as Commissioner of New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) on January 19th. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Post as Commissioner of the Department, one of the largest muncipal IT and telecom agencies in the world, on December 30, 2009.

Commissioner Post had previoulsy served as Director of Agency Services in the Mayor's Office of Operations where she has helped lead efforts to improve the delivery of City services by leveraging new technologies and reforming and modernizing practices.

She has been at the front of major technological innovations that have made City agencies more efficient, transparent, and accountable, including the creation of the Citywide Performance Reporting system, the City's award-winning Stimulus Tracker database, the Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT), and NYC Stat, the City's website for all essential data, reports, and statistics related to its services.

Commissioner Post succeeds Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave, who had served as Commissioner since 2006 and announced his resignation in December. The New York City Council and regional media had been critical of the City's Enhanced 9-1-1 (E 9-1-1) upgrade project managed by Cosgrave.

The New York Daily News reported, in an article of last October, that the upgrade effort, branded the Emergency Communcations Transformation Program (ECTP), was then was '2 years late, and $700 million overbudget.' ECTP's problems, in large measure caused by specific project vendors, including Motorala (NYSE: MOT), and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), are reminescent of other large scale E 9-1-1 upgrades around the nation. Verizon's effort to modernize the Massachusetts statewide E 9-1-1 system, for example, was finally halted by the Administration of former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) following multi-year delays, and at least one allegation of a death caused by system call disfunction.

"She has helped pioneer major accountability innovations, which have leveraged technology to improve the services New Yorkers receive from their government," said mayor Bloomberg in remarks announcing the Commissioner's appointment.

"Her capacity for strategic planning and ability to find new ways for technology to improve government services make Carole the perfect person to lead an agency that works every day to provide the public with the highest possible level of customer service," concluded the Mayor, who was elected to a third four-year term in November.

"I've been afforded countless opportunities to help improve the City's ability to serve New Yorkers and I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for giving me an even greater opportunity to build on the progress we have made," said Commissioner Post.

"I've worked closely with DoITT at the forefront of the City's march toward improving transparency, accessibility, and accountability in the digital age. I look forward to making it easier, faster, and more efficient than ever to interact with the City. My experiences with DoITT have revealed the complexities the agency tackles every day and the skills of the agency staff, who rise to each challenge. It will be a privilege to work side by side with this team."

Commissioner Post will conduct a top-to-bottom review of DoITT and report back to the Mayor in 30 days. The review will be used to determine if the agency is structured to achieve the Administration's goals and will make recommendations, if needed, for how the agency can be adapted to achieve those goals.

The major initiatives led by Commissioner Post that have improved the delivery of City services have largely involved working closely with DoITT. The most significant example of this collaboration is the development of the Citywide Performance Reporting system, which has transformed the way agency performance is measured. Through its website, the system has made the performance of government transparent to the public and holds City agencies accountable by publishing data monthly, which had never been done in City history. The data is used to quickly identify problem areas and improve service.

Additionally, Commissioner Post led the design, implementation, and maintenance of the City's Stimulus Tracker, a comprehensive, interactive database that allows the public to track every dollar of Federal stimulus funding sent to the City, from each Federal appropriation to the vendors receiving stimulus-funded contracts, as well as the jobs created by each project. The Stimulus Tracker, created through a partnership with DoITT, has received national acclaim, including a Digital Government Achievement award from the Center for Digital Government.

The Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT), a team of inspectors tasked with driving every City street once per month and reporting conditions that negatively impact quality of life to 311, and NYC Stat, the City's website for all essential data, reports, and statistics related to City services, are two additional major initiatives Commissioner Post helped pioneer, in concert with DoITT, that have resulted in improved City services and produced a more effective and transparent City government.

Commissioner Post was instrumental in reforming the way the City addresses graffiti, implementing a streamlined process that resulted in nearly double the number of graffiti sites being cleaned. She was instrumental in securing the passage of legislation to make it easier and more efficient for the City to clean graffiti sites as well.

She led the effort to relocate the City's Environmental Control Board from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. This has allowed DEP to focus on its core mission of protecting the City's waterways and water supply and has helped reduce the backlog of Environmental Control Board cases.
DoITT, established in 1995, oversees the City's use of existing and emerging technologies in government operations, and improves the way the City interacts with the public by utilizing technology to improve services and increase transparency, accountability, and accessibility across all City agencies.

The more than 1,200-person department has a $375 million budget and operates the City's 311 Customer Service Center, maintains the City's official website, and manages the City's television and radio stations. The department is home to the Citywide Geographic Information Systems Unit, which develops and hosts a digital base map used to support City operations. Responsible for coordinating citywide IT policy and planning, including IT security, DoITT operates the City's data center, telephone systems, fiberoptic network, New York City Wireless Network, Citywide Radio Network, 800 MHz radio network, and Enterprise Service Desk.

DoITT administers the City's telecommunications franchises, including high capacity fiber, cable television infrastructure, public pay telephones and mobile telecommunications equipment installed on City property and in City streets.

Commissioner Post started work in the Mayor's Office of Operations in 2006. She began her career in City government in 2001 at the Department of Buildings, where she helped reform various agency policies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Check Isn't in the Mail: NTIA Sending Out 1,400 Broadband Stimulus Rejection Letters

(Editor's Note: This story was first published on Friday, 01/22/2010. Click here: USDA-RUS on Broadband Stimulus: All Rejection and Award Letters to be Issued by Late February for our story of Tuesday, 01/26/2010 which updates to the issue of rejection and award letter scheduling, and the application deadline of 03/15/2010 for Round II.) 01/22/2010 San Francisco
- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce is now in the process of sending out an estimated 1,400 rejection letters to applicants that applied for Round I funding under the federal broadband stimulus program.

The letters state the recipients have not been passed to the "due diligence phase" of the first funding award cycle of the program, and are therefore not eligible for funding in the current round.

Ms. Jessica Schafer, authorized spokesperson for NTIA this afternoon confirmed in writing for a previously published report quoting an unidentified federal spokesperson that NTIA is now processing the bulk of 1,400 letters for transmittal to Round I applicants that are no longer being evaluated. Ms. Schafer confirms that the agency now estimates that the vast majority of such rejection letters will be mailed a week from tomorrow, by January 30th.

Timely and Transparent Information for Round II Applicants?
Additionally, and importantly, the NTIA authorized spokesperson wrote in response to an on-point question of ours, "Our aim remains to make all round 1 announcements by the end of next month."

This latter point is critical for service providers, states, municipalities, and non-profit groups contemplating the filing of Round II applications by the federal deadline of March 15.

The 2 federal agencies managing the total $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) have consistently stated that funding Round I winners would be announced prior to the filing deadline for Round II. NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling, and his colleague, Johnathan Adlestein, Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (RUS) have testified to several Committees of Congress that full visibility of Round I funding would be publicly provided to Round II applicants.

More to the point, the recently released rules for Round II, as separately promulgated by NTIA and RUS, make "proposed service areas" of Round I awardees ineligible for Round II funding. Thus, under present rules and mandated schedules, Round II applicants will have only 2 weeks to finally define their respective proposed service areas. Clearly, that 2 week period itself could be further diminished if either agency is not able to give notice of all Round I awards by "the end of next month."

Agencies Publish Round II Broadband Stimulus Rules in Federal Register 01/22/2010 San Francisco - As mavens of the broadband stimulus program recall from the publication of funding Round I rules in July of 2009, the rules printed in the preliminary Notice(s) of Funding Availability (NOFAs) are not official writ until published in the Federal Register.

The 2 agencies managing the $7.2 billion program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) promulgated the rules today:

Topic Resources at StimulatingBroadband on Scribd:

1. Folder: NOFA-2 Documents

2. "Federal Register 2010-1097 Broadband Stimulus Rules for Funding Round II NTIA and RUS"

3. "BTOP NOFA 1-15-10 with Discliamer"

4. "RUS Round Two NOFA Final"

RUS Issues Fact Sheets and Announces New Workshops for Broadband Stimulus Round II 01/22/2010 San Francisco - Demonstrating further that the separation between the 2 federal agencies administering the broadband stimulus program is indeed real, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture today released 2 fact sheets about its role in funding Round II of the program.

The agency additionally announced 6 "Pre-Workshop Events" to be conducted by its personnel in advance of the joint agency workshops about the program, starting next week, to be conducted with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The 2 documents, not as of yet published on the federal site may be downloaded here:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Broadband Workshops & Pre-Workshop Events

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stimulating Some Answers: RUS Issues Updated FAQs for Broadband Stimulus Round II 01/21/2010 San Francisco - The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture today published online a new 30 page document to assist applicants in Round II of the federal broadband stimulus program.

Entitled Frequently Asked Questions for Round 2 BIP Applicants, the RUS document covers issues directly associated with the agency's Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). More importantly for many potential applcants, the briefing paper assists in the decision making as choices are made between BIP and the collateral Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Last Friday, 01/15/10, RUS and NTIA, the erstwhile partners in the broadband stimulus effort, issued separate regulation compendiums which launched Round II. The regulation documents, called Notice(s) of Funds Availability (NOFAs) were issued as a consolidated single document for the launch of funding Round I, on July 1, 2009. Subsequently, the two agencies issued several updated and consolidated documents called BIP/BTOP Frequently Asked Questions which were last updated on July 31.

As of this posting, NTIA has issued a one page document entitled Broadband Technology Opportunities Program: Key Revisions in Second Notice of Funds Availability.

BIP Round 2 FAQs - Updated Jan 19 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Department of Commerce Awards $63 Million in Broadband Stimulus Grants

Funds Will Expand Broadband Infrastructure and Access in Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina 01-20-10 San Francisco – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce today announced grants totaling $63 million to expand broadband access and adoption in Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina.

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, enhance and expand public computer centers, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. These investments will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth and create jobs.

“High-speed Internet access is the lifeblood of today’s economy,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a press release issued to the media this afternoon in Washington.

“Having access to the Internet’s economic, health and educational benefits should be as much of a fundamental American right as attending a quality school. Our best minds should be able to talk to one another, create and innovate regardless of where they come from. These grants are an important step toward expanding high-speed Internet access into the unserved and underserved areas of the country.”

NTIA received nearly 1,800 applications during the first BTOP funding round and is currently awarding grants on a rolling basis. Including today’s announcement, NTIA has now awarded 15 grants totaling approximately $200 million under the program.

“The level of interest in this program has been extraordinary, and is yet another indicator of the critical role broadband plays in achieving durable, sustainable economic growth,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.
“Like the grants announced today, the strongest proposals are the ones that have taken a truly comprehensive view of the communities to be served and have engaged as many key members of the communities as possible in developing the projects,” concluded Mr. Strickling

BTOP grants fall into one of three categories. Infrastructure grants build and improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access. Public computer center grants expand computer center capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues. Sustainable broadband adoption grants fund innovative projects to increase broadband subscription levels in areas or among population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized.

The following grants were announced today:

Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts-Lowell: $780,000 broadband adoption grant with an additional $196,000 in applicant-provided matching funds to promote broadband awareness and computer literacy among vulnerable populations, including the nation’s second largest Cambodian population, low-income and at-risk youth, the unemployed, residents without college degrees, and seniors in Lowell and Merrimack Valley. As part of the program, University of Massachusetts–Lowell students will work in local computer centers with at-risk youth and seniors to develop appropriate training and outreach materials.

Michigan, Merit Network, Inc.: $33.3 million infrastructure grant with an additional $8.3 million in matching funds to build a 955-mile advanced fiber-optic network through 32 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The project also intends to directly connect 44 community anchor institutions and will serve an area covering 886,000 households, 45,800 businesses, and an additional 378 anchor institutions.

Michigan, Michigan State University: $895,000 public computer center grant with an additional $235,000 in matching funds to expand 84 existing library computer centers and establish four new computer centers. Computer center sites were selected by targeting underserved and high-unemployment population areas and then focusing on those libraries with the greatest need for additional computing capacity. The project will add 500 new workstations at these targeted public computer centers throughout the state and serve nearly 13,000 additional users per week.

North Carolina, MCNC: $28.2 million infrastructure grant with an additional $11.7 million in matching funds and in-kind contributions to build a 494-mile middle-mile broadband network passing almost half the population of North Carolina in 37 counties. The network will build new rings in the western and eastern regions of the state, which will connect to 685 miles of existing infrastructure in the urbanized central region, expanding the reach of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCERN), an established broadband service for community anchor institutions in the state.

NTIA recently announced that a second round of BTOP applications will be accepted through March 15, 2010. The rules for applying to this funding round have been modified to make the application process more user-friendly and better target program resources.

“I encourage prospective round two BTOP applicants to study the grant announcements we are currently rolling out for guidance as they put together their own project proposals,” added Strickling.

NTIA and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which is administering a companion broadband expansion grant and loan program, will hold a series of public workshops to review the new application process and answer questions from prospective applicants.

Interested parties may register for the workshops, which commence on January 26th, here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NTIA - RUS Announce Second Broadband Stimulus Funding Round

Agencies Enhance Program Objectives, Announce Workshop Locations to Assist Applicants

NTIA-RUS Press Release via 01-15-2010 San Francisco - The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) today announced availability of $4.8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and loans to expand broadband access and adoption in America.

This is the second funding round for the agencies’ broadband programs. The investment will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth, and create jobs.

NTIA and RUS also announced the rules for applying in this funding round, which have been modified to make the application process easier for applicants and better target program resources.

The NTIA-BTOP Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA): download .PDF.

The RUS-BIP Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA): download .PDF

The NTIA-BTOP "Key Revisions" Memo: download .PDF

“Based on the feedback we received from stakeholders and our own experience in the first funding round, we are making the application process more user-friendly, sharpening our funding focus to make the biggest impact with this investment, and streamlining our review process to increase efficiency,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA.

“In response to lessons learned from the first funding round, RUS is making important changes that will make the process easier for applicants and target our resources toward ‘last-mile’ broadband connections to homes and businesses,” said Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture.

“This draws on our long experience in improving rural networks to the most difficult-to-reach areas of our country that need it most. We’ve streamlined the application process, added support for satellite service for rural residents left unserved after other funds are awarded, and provided ourselves more flexibility to target areas of greatest need. We are going to stretch every last dime to maximize economic development in rural areas that currently lack adequate broadband service.”

The agencies announced the rules for this funding round in two separate but complementary Notices of Funds Availability (NOFAs) that promote each agency’s distinct objectives.

NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)
NTIA’s NOFA allocates approximately $2.6 billion in this funding round of which approximately $2.35 billion will be made available for infrastructure projects. In this round, NTIA is adopting a “comprehensive communities” approach as its top priority in awarding infrastructure grants, focusing on middle mile broadband projects that connect key community anchor institutions – such as libraries, hospitals, community colleges, universities, and public safety institutions.

Comprehensive Community Infrastructure projects maximize the benefits of BTOP by leveraging resources, promoting sustainable community growth, and ultimately laying the foundation for reasonably priced broadband service to consumers and businesses.

In addition, NTIA plans to award at least $150 million of the funding for Public Computer Center projects, which will expand access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that service the general public. NTIA also plans to award at least $100 million for Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects, which include projects to provide broadband education, training, and equipment, particularly to vulnerable population groups where broadband technology has traditionally been underutilized.

RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP)
RUS’s NOFA allocates approximately $2.2 billion in this funding round for broadband infrastructure
projects. A second funding window will open later which will provide grants for satellite service for premises that remain unserved after all other Recovery Act broadband funding is awarded, make Technical Assistance grants for developing plans using broadband for regional economic development, and grants to provide broadband service to rural libraries funded by USDA under the Recovery Act.

RUS will focus this round on last mile projects, which are anticipated to receive the vast majority of funding. RUS will also fund middle mile projects involving current RUS program participants. The first NOFA had two funding options – grants up to 100 percent in remote rural areas, and 50/50 loan/grant combinations in non-remote rural areas. In the second NOFA, RUS has eliminated this distinction and adopted a base 75/25 grant/loan combination for all projects. The new approach provides RUS with flexibility to seek a waiver if additional grant resources are needed for areas that are difficult to serve, and priority for those who seek lower grant levels. RUS believes this simplified and flexible funding strategy will promote rural economic development.

Separate NOFAs will allow applicants to apply directly to either program. RUS also eliminates the two-step process for BIP applicants to improve program efficiency. These changes will also add valuable time for applicants to focus on one specific program in preparing a more solid application.

Incorporated into the RUS NOFA is an opportunity for the reconsideration of BIP requests to provide viable applications with every chance for funding. There is also a second application review process during which RUS would allow an applicant to adjust its application to better meet program objectives and for the Administrator to provide discretionary points or to increase a grant component to meet rural economic objectives.

Public Workshops
Also today, NTIA and RUS announced a series of public workshops to review the application process and answer questions from prospective applicants. The workshops will be held in Portland, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; Denver, Colo.; San Antonio, Tex.; Eureka, Mo.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Detroit, Mich.; Blacksburg, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Atlanta, Ga.

Interested parties can register for the workshops at: The Worshop Registration Page of

The agencies plan to accept applications from February 16, 2010, to March 15, 2010, and announce all awards by September 30, 2010.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to NTIA and RUS to fund projects that will expand access to and adoption of broadband services. Of that funding, NTIA will utilize $4.7 billion for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the United States, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. RUS will use $2.5 billion in budget authority to support grants and loans to facilitate broadband deployment in primarily rural communities.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Locke and Boxer Announce $7.5 Million Broadband Stimulus Grant for Los Angeles

Funding to Upgrade and Expand Computer Centers in Most Vulnerable Communities
US Dept. of Commerce Press Release via 01/13/10 San Francisco - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today, joined by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the South Los Angeles WorkSource Center, announced a $7.5 million Recovery Act grant that will upgrade and expand 188 computer centers that provide the public with free broadband access to the Internet.

The investment will help bridge the technological divide and improve access to job and computer training, and educational opportunities.

The grant was awarded to the Los Angeles’ Computer Access Network (L.A.-CAN). (Application Executive Summary, download: .PDF). The L.A.-CAN project proposes to double the number of workstations available throughout the city at public computer centers in libraries, workforce centers, and youth and family centers in low-income and non-English speaking communities. The majority of the 188 proposed centers would be located in or within three miles of federal and state designated “Enterprise Zones.”

“This critical investment will expand computer and Internet service access to Los Angeles residents most in need, helping to make them full participants in today’s 21st century information economy,” Locke said. “Having access to the Internet’s economic, health and educational benefits should be as much of a fundamental American right as attending a quality school or feeling safe when you walk down the street.”

The project proposes to:
Expand and upgrade free public computer centers at 73 public library locations, 43 WorkSource and OneSource job centers, and 72 recreation centers, senior centers and child care centers – connecting 35 youth and senior centers to broadband Internet service for the first time.

Expand broadband Internet access to vulnerable populations: 128 of the proposed centers are located in or near areas where 50 percent of the households are non-English speaking. Expand broadband Internet access to low-income communities: 158 of the proposed centers are located in areas where 50 percent of the households are at low or moderate income levels.

Provide city residents with access to job and computer training and online search engines, including the library’s recently developed Job Hunting Guide.

View Federal Broadband Stimulus: Round I Award Locations in a larger map

“I am so pleased to stand with Secretary Locke today as he announces this crucial funding for the L.A.-CAN Project, which will help community centers, libraries, workforce and youth centers across Los Angeles upgrade and expand their computer centers and high speed Internet access, and support computer literacy and educational training programs,” Senator Boxer said.

“This grant represents the beginning of our commitment to use Recovery Act funds to broaden access to technology and close the digital divide,” Congresswoman Waters said. “Many residents have not been able to afford broadband and thus do not have access to it, but the South Los Angeles WorkSource Center – Community Centers Inc. and other public computing centers receiving funding will now make broadband available for free to our community.”

View Locations in a larger map

"With access to computers and broadband Internet that many of us take for granted, more Angelenos will have the opportunity to use the tools of the 21st century to get the jobs of the 21st century,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “With this ARRA funding, we will take another step towards bridging the digital divide and getting the hard working people of Los Angeles back to work.”

Last month, Vice President Biden announced award of the first grants and loans funded by the Recovery Act to expand access to and adoption of broadband service in America – an initial investment of $183 million in 18 high-speed Internet projects benefiting 17 states. Today’s grant is part of the same Recovery Act effort, which will eventually invest a total of $7.2 billion.

Of that funding, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will utilize $4.7 billion for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the United States, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service will use $2.5 billion in budget authority to support grants and loans to facilitate broadband deployment in primarily rural communities.
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