Wednesday, March 10, 2010

USDA-RUS Issues New Guide for Broadband Stimulus Round II 03/10/2010 San Francisco - The rules for funding Round II of the federal broadband stimulus program were just changed, again.

The 109 page "Application Guide" (below) issued yesterday the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) made 36 separate changes to the previous Application Guide issued on February 1.

The new Guide is only applicable to filings for funds made to the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) managed by RUS, and arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

RUS is 1 of 2 federal agencies administering the $7.2 broadband stimulus program. The collateral effort within the overall program, that of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce (NTIA), follows a fully separate set of rules, with a separate filing deadline extension date.

Rural service providers, communities, and states looking for federal capital subsidies under funding Round II of the program will need to comb through the new document, using a provided listing of 36 identified "Errata," to identify what aspects of their application filings now being crafted must be changed.

Mapping Requirements Changed
Following our initial read of the document, we believe the most significant single change found in the new Guide issued yesterday is in the realm of proposed service area mapping required by applicants. As the document states, on page 28:

"Important Note on Mapping Tool Reference Numbers

Entities applying for BIP Infrastructure funding during Round Two must create new PFSA maps using the Mapping Tool on or after February 16, 2010. BIP Infrastructure applications submitted during Round Two that contain map reference numbers begun prior to February 16, 2010 will result in the disqualification of your Round Two application."

Applicants Scramble, Even with New Deadline
On March 2 the 2 federal agencies managing the broadband stimulus program responded to pressure from Congress and moved the application deadline for Round II for the core infrastructure funding categories of the program. March 29 is the new application deadline for filings made to RUS under the agency's BIP program.

Many applicants, state broadband program chiefs, public interest groups, and analysts of the program had complained that the March 15 deadline for Round II applications did not give enough time to cull through new application requirements, and otherwise organize required data. In particular, applicants and broadband advocates pointed to the fact that final awards and rejections for applications made in Round I remained pending, as many do today.
BIP Application Guide Round 2 Issued 03-09-2010
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