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.
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