Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alert: USDA Now Releasing Last Broadband Stimulus Awards

USDA Confirms Awards Still Rolling at 5:00 PM (EDT) 09/30/2010 San Francisco Updated at 5:25 PM (EDT) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has this morning started to release its last group of awards made under the federal broadband stimulus program.

Update: According to a USDA spokesperson at 5:01 PM (EDT) today, the awards, with 4 issued so far are still rolling out.  We have no information as to the estimated time of the final announcement from USDA headquarters in Washington

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this morning the award of $2.63 million to The Digital Bridge Corporation, a WiMAX enabled rural wireless carrier headquartered in Ashburn, VA, for Panola and Quittman Counties in Mississippi.

An authorized USDA spokesman has confirmed for that additional award announcements are now rolling out from Agriculture's offices in Washington.   
Under federal law all of the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds, minus the $302 million rescission which Congress issued against the NTIA-BTOP side of the program in August, must be awarded by midnight tonight. 

USDA spokesman Bart Kendrick confirmed for us again this morning a statement given us on Tuesday of this week that "we continue to be on track to complete all announcements by the deadline."

Loan Leverage Rate Comes Into View
The exact dollar amount to be awarded by USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is difficult to accurately estimate.  USDA-RUS is given authority under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to do something all important that its sister agency administering the broadband stimulus program at Commerce is not allowed to: engage in loan leverage.

As Kendrick described in response to our question 2 days ago, "getting the final numbers is not so easy as when you make only grants.  We will be in a better position to answer the question  in the coming week."  As he suggested, that loan leverage rate question is now being more finely answered in the Vilsack statement of this morning.

As part of the Secretary's statement, USDA says "by leveraging $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding authorized by Congress, USDA has been able to provide loans and grants of $3.6 billion."
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