Friday, February 26, 2010

The Broadband Stimulus Pipeline: $1.265 Billion Issued in 65 Awards To Date 02/26/2010 San Francisco - As of this morning, the 2 federal agencies managing the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program have issued a total of $1.265 billion in 65 separate awards in the core categories of the program.

Additionally, 1 agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has issued another $96.108 million in 54 awards to state and territorial governments for broadband mapping projects.

The 65 awards, in the broadband infrastructure, public computer center, and sustainable broadband categories, have been issued on a "rolling basis" over the past 70 days. Launched by Vice President Joe Biden's announcement in Dawsonville, GA on December 17, the string of awards has continued up to the grant issued to ENMR-Plateau Telephone in Clovis, NM on Wednesday, February 24.

The Numbers
The $1.265 billion represents 37% of the $3.400 billion allocated by the agencies to the core categories for funding Round I, which opened with the release of program rules (NOFA-1), on July 1, 2009.

The key question on the collective mind of the national 'bbstim community' is how quickly will the agencies issue the balance of $2.135 billion in pending award monies, a figure equal to 63% of the Round I allocation. As we reviewed yesterday, in a story about the NTIA's denial of the Round II filing extension set at March 15, the agencies have committed in public statements to announce the award of all Round I funds by this Sunday, February 28.

Round I to Round II Reprogramming?
At this point every deadline and target date set by the agencies for funds release has lagged under the weight of 2,167 Round I applications filed by August 20, itself an extended date given the breakdown of the electronic Easygrant filing system. Clearly it is unlikely that the agencies will meet the February 28 target and issue some $700 million a day for 3 days.

Many of us in the analyst community watching the program, and congressional staff in Washington fielding the complaints from constituents, today are asking if Round I monies not awarded after a 'drop dead' date will be reprogrammed to Round II. With the NTIA declaring that the March 15 Round II filing deadline will be kept, this reprogramming / reallocation strategy appears increasingly likely, as does increased oversight and investigation of the program by Congress.
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