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Friday, February 26, 2010

Chairman Boucher Calls Oversight Hearing on Broadband Stimulus for March 4

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/26/2010 San Francisco - Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA-09) has scheduled the third congressional oversight hearing of the federal broadband stimulus program held by his Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet for March 4.

As of this posting, no witness list has been published in the online schedule section of the full Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House. Typically Committees of Congress publish their respective witness lists anywhere from 1 week to 1 day prior to the opening gavel of a hearing.

We will post updates as we gather new information. StimulatingBroadband.com

The Broadband Stimulus Pipeline: $1.265 Billion Issued in 65 Awards To Date

StimulatingBroadband.com 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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Call to Action: Tell Congress to Fix the Broadband Stimulus

How to Lobby Your Congressperson & Senators to Fix the Program
StimulatingBroadband.com 02/25/2010 San Francisco - The professionals in government and industry that know the broadband stimulus program best agree on one central idea: The program is broken.

Yesterday the NTIA rejected the pleas of states, cities, investors, and service providers across the nation and denied requests to move the untenable Round II filing deadline of March 15. Only Congress, providing the oversight of the program that it should, can now fix the problem.

What to Do Now: Get The System to Work for You

Don't have a powerful K Street lobbying firm on retainer? Follow these steps, and you'll be lobbying like a pro:

1. Download the document package with the 2 letters you need to lobby with (click to .PDF, and below): The draft Dear Colleague Letter, and draft Joint Letter to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce

2. If you don't know who your Congressperson is, do a look up here:

3. If you don't know who your 2 Senators are, do a look up here:

4. Call both the local and Washington offices of your Congressperson and your 2 Senators. Tell staff there why the lack of data transparency and the tight deadline of March 15 puts you at a distinct disadvantage.

Get the direct email addresses of staffers, and send the documents to them immediately. Direct email is important to use, rather than automated web form mail screening platforms most representatives use.

5. Ask staff to tell your Congressperson and 2 Senators you want them to start circulating the Dear Colleague and Secretaries letters you send to them. Have them work with their colleagues on your behalf.

Find and talk with staff people that will advocate for your position, and tell them you will need to keep in touch to get updates. Tell them the deadline of March 15 needs to be moved to April 30, as NATOA and a host of public interest groups petitioned for, to no avail. Tell them we have been
patient waiting for the agencies to act, and now Congress needs to work for us.

6. Circulate this link to this story: Call to Action on Broadband Stimulus to
your colleagues, employees, and association members. Organize your own group.

6. Please email us and let us know what action you have taken:
takeaction@stimulatingbroadband.com By letting us know who you are speaking with, we can put you in touch with others working with your Senators and Members of Congress.

Working together we can do this.

- Peter J. Pratt; Editor & Publisher, StimulatingBroadband.com


California Regulators Issue $1.7 Million Grant for Sierra Broadband Project

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/25/2010 San Francisco - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) convened today in this city to approve a matching grant of $1,721,280 from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to Plumas Sierra Telecommunications (PST).

The grant, if issued following required conditions being met, will help fund a middle mile project supporting Internet service providers (ISPs), and 171 anchor institutions in the low density and mountainous areas of Plumas, Sierra, and Lassen Counties in northeastern California.

This grant represents 10 percent of the total cost of the project and is contingent upon approval for an 80 percent matching grant from the federal broadband stimulus program.

The PST middle-mile project would build a backhaul network designed to support the northeastern Sierra region of California, including portions of Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra Counties. The proposed fiber network would enable wholesale service to Internet service providers, who in turn could directly serve up to approximately 13,000 underserved residents and businesses at speeds from 3 mbps to potentially as high as 100 mbps. Three full-time operations and sales jobs are expected to be created through this project, with an additional 90 construction and project-related jobs created during construction.

The proposed 180-mile fiber network would also provide broadband capacity to anchor institutions, such as the City of Loyalton, Feather River Community College District, City of Portola, Plumas County Office of Education, Plumas District Hospital, Plumas (County Economic Development) Corporation, the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, Plumas Bank, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative, Susanville Indian Rancheria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (Plumas National Forest), and an electric co-generation facility being built by Lassen County Prison.

PST is a wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC), a member-owned electric distribution utility providing electricity and related services to over 6,500 member/owners in Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra counties in California, and portions of Washoe County in Nevada. PSREC was founded in 1937.

The proposed fiber route follows the U.S. Route 395 corridor from Sparks, Nevada into California heading north to Susanville, with a second fiber path branching off after entering California to take a westerly route along California State Route 70 to Quincy, and another branch heading south along State Route 49 in Sierra County to Loyalton and Sierraville. The CASF grant would fund 10 percent of the costs for the California portion of the network.

This middle-mile project also facilitates a portion of the PST Last Mile Project previously approved by the CPUC (December 17, 2009) for a CASF grant of $166,911 that would provide retail access to broadband service to 3,994 households and 453 businesses, in areas not already served by Internet service providers in Lassen, Plumas, and Sierra Counties. The Last Mile Project is also contingent upon approval of 80 percent matching funding from the federal stimulus package.

On July 9, 2009, the CPUC established a new schedule for filing, review, and approval of CASF broadband fund applications to allow project sponsors to simultaneously apply for an 80 percent match from federal ARRA stimulus.

Before then, on December 20, 2007, the CPUC established the $100 million CASF to provide 40 percent matching infrastructure grants to broadband providers willing to finance the remaining 60 percent of a project's funding requirement, to better serve the nearly 2,000 California communities that are currently unserved and underserved by broadband. Of that $100 million, $85,388,389 in broadband infrastructure grants have so far been approved. Today's approvals bring the total to $87,109,669.

Applications for CASF grants are still being accepted by the CPUC. CPUC Resolution T-17143 authorized the Communications Division to establish new filing periods in the event that CASF funds remain. Prospective applicants may submit new CASF funding applications, either for a 40 percent CASF grant or for a 10 percent matching grant to complement the applicant's second round ARRA funding application. New CASF funding applications must be submitted by March 19, 2010. Although applications may be submitted after this date, applications received by March 19th will be given primary consideration for funding. StimulatingBroadband.com

Federal Agency Denies Requests to Extend Broadband Stimulus Deadline

With 63% of Funds Not Awarded, Commerce Dept Says No to March 15 Deadline Extension
StimulatingBroadband.com 02/25/2010 San Francisco - The federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce which administers part of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program yesterday released a statement that it is denying requests to extend the program's Round II funding application deadline beyond the previously set date of March 15, 2010.

The statement is contained in a
54-page report issued yesterday by the agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The report lists the current status of 77 applications, from within the group of 2,167 total applications submitted for grants and loans in funding Round I of the program.

Additionally, the report publishes 44 maps of awarded and pending projects proposed for funding by applicants within the Middle Mile Infrastructure category of funding Round I. The majority of the 44 maps issued in the report were drawn electronically within the
Broadband Mapping Tool deployed on a federal website by NTIA and its colleague agency administering the overall program, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report contains the statement:

"Please note that NTIA recently received requests to extend the March 15, 2010 Round 2 BTOP application filing deadline based on lack of full information on Round 1 awards. The information being made available provides adequate information for Round 2 applications about possible overlaps with Round 1 grants. Accordingly, NTIA denies the pending extension requests."

A variety of individual applicants, cities, state broadband programs, and public interests groups had petitioned both NTIA and RUS, over the past 40 days, to extend the March 15 filing deadline, given the paucity of information available about Round I applications and awards.

Most prominent among those groups requesting extension of the deadline is the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), the professional organization of municipal telecom regulators and network administrators across the nation. As
we reported on February 17, NATOA issued a petition, in the form of a lettter sent to the administrators of NTIA and RUS dated February 12, to move the March 15 deadline to April 30.

As of
yesterday's grant award by NTIA to the ENMR Telephone Cooperative of Clovis, NM, NTIA and RUS together had issued 65 awards for $1.265 billion in grant and loan monies. This $1.265 figure means that the 2 agencies have awarded 37% of the $3.4 billion in funds allocated in funding Round I to the core broadband infrstructure, public computing center, and sustainable broadband categories of the program.

We reported in late January, quoting the attributable statements of authorized spokespeople at NTIA and RUS, that both agencies set February 28 as the deadline for release of all Round I awards. If the target award deadline of the last day of February is held to and the agencies award the remaining 63% of funds in the interim, they will need to issue just over $533 million per day for 4 days, inclusive of today. StimulatingBroadband.com

$11.2 Million in Broadband Stimulus Grant Awarded for NM-TX Fiber Project

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/25/2010 San Francisco - The U.S. Commerce Department yesterday announced the award of a $11.2 million broadband stimulus grant to the ENMR Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (Application Database, Fact Sheet) to extend broadband services to eastern new Mexico and west Texas.

The announcement was made on a conference call hosted by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and joined by U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

According to a press release issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration NTIA, “the grant will bring high-speed Internet access to more than 200 community anchor institutions – including schools, public safety organizations, health care facilities, and government agencies – and lay the groundwork for bringing affordable broadband service to thousands of homes and businesses in the region.”

StimulatingBroadband.com is attempting to clarify with ENMR, which brands its operating company as ENMR-Plateau Telecommunications, the particulars of the optical fiber network build out which today’s announced grant will help finance.


We believe the federal grant support of what appears to b ENMR’s proposal to light currently “dark” optical fiber facilities is significant for several issues of federal grantsmanship and policy. At the very least, it demonstrates close attention paid to the efficiencies of investments made by NTIA.


View The Broadband Stimulus Pipeline: Award Locations in a larger map

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Palo Alto Wants A Google Net, Broadband Stimulus Not So Much

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/23/2010 San Francisco - The City Council of Palo Alto, CA voted last night to apply to Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) for a high capacity fiber network funded by the company. The city simultaneously announced it will not apply for federal broadband stimulus funding, following high level petitions to the agencies running the stimulus program over the last several months.

Palo Alto Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa
The city thus became one of the scores of American communities that have responded to Google's call for municipal networking partners as the tech leader continues to reboot the agendas for U.S. broadband competition, policy, and technology.

Last evening the Council, the governing legislative body of the Santa Clara County community of 58,000 population, voted to directly apply to Google for a high capacity fiber network as part of the firm's announced program to build such systems in selected cities around the nation. The votes in Council are the latest moves in what Palo Alto Online calls the city's multi-year "fruitless and frustrating quest for a citywide high-speed Internet network."

As we reported in April of 2009, the City Council voted at that time to cancel its contract with Axia NetMedia Corporation (TSX: AXX), a Canadian network developer and operator previously hired to build the proposed municipal fiber system with a financing partner. Also in April, just as the federal stimulus program was getting underway, the Council moved to position the city to apply for broadband stimulus project funding.

Following the April vote, the city petitioned both the California congressional delegation and the two agencies managing the federal broadband stimulus effort to seek funding allowances for specialized high capacity networks supporting community anchor institutions in "technology corridors" around the nation. Last night city officials stated they saw the federal funding application route as not holding promise, given the burden a heavily wired community like Palo Alto faces to demonstrate a broadband underserved profile.

Palo Alto, home to Stanford University, is directly adjacent to the City of Mountain View, CA, home to the headquarters of Google itself. Perhaps agreeing with our assessment earlier this month that his city would be a perfect fit for Google's broadband ambitions, Palo Alto's Vice Mayor called out over live cable television access programming last night in hopes the Googleplex was listening.

The San Jose Mercury News reported this morning that Vice Mayor and council member Sid Espinosa said, "If Google is out there listening, if any decision-makers are there and paying attention, we as a city are ready to move quickly to make this a reality."

"We have a commitment to this type of goal and program, and we have worked on this in a grassroots way and an organized way for many years," concluded Espinosa in the Mercury News story. 






Monday, February 22, 2010

Utah State Research Net Gets $13.4 million Broadband Stimulus Grant

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/22/2010 San Francisco - Another state research and educational network (REN), this one in Utah, was awarded federal broadband stimulus funds today by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Utah Education Network (UEN)
(Application, Fact Sheet)
The $13.401 million grant "will allow the University of Utah to enhance and expand the Utah Education Network (UEN), which currently provides Internet service to more than 300 schools and other community anchor institutions, stated the NTIA in a press release of today.

Additionally, Commerce reported the project will extend fiber-based Ethernet broadband services to 130 additional elementary schools, public libraries, charter schools, and Head Start centers across the state.



Included in the federally supported Head Start early childhood centers to which UEN's digital facilities will be extended is the Ute Head Start Center in Fort Duchesne serving the Utintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. The Reservation, of the federally recognized Ute Nation of 3,157 Native Americans, is the second largest reservation in Indian Country, behind the Navajo Nation.

 
Project Recommendation from Gov. Herbert

As we reported in November, the UNE project was 1 of 19 separate projects, from 10 applicants, to be recommended for NTIA funding by Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert (R-UT).

“In today’s society, if you don’t have regular access to high-speed Internet, you don't have access to all the educational and employment opportunities it provides. Fast, reliable Internet connections can help Americans gain job training and skills, open doors for small businesses, and give students the opportunity to explore vast libraries and archives from their local school or library,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling, in the prepared agency release announcing the award.


“Projects like the grant announced today are laying the foundation for strong, sustainable economic growth for years to come,” concluded Strickling.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feds Release New Round of Broadband Stimulus Rejections

Crowdsourcing the Broadband Stim
StimulatingBroadband.com 02-19-2010 San Francisco -
The 2 federal agencies managing the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program have issued another round of rejection letters to applicants in the so-called Round I funding cycle of the program.

We have received numerous reports from around the nation of the receipt, by Round I applicants, of rejection letters and emails sent by the 2 agencies within the past week.

The Applications Database section of the federal website BroadbandUSA.gov has not however been updated with new information about the recent rejections, as of the time of this posting.

We are attempting to clarify the award pipeline numbers with authorized spokespeople from the 2 agencies involved, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Rural Utilities service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We have found throughout the history of the broadband stimulus program however that the most accurate source of information about the effort has come from funding applicants themselves. Since the meltdown of the application filing process itself, supported on a federal contractor's system called Easygrants, it is the program applicants - the states, cities, county coalitions, and investor owned service providers - have best our best source of public information about the details of the program.

Crowdsourcing the Data
In an effort provide the most accurate and updated data about the program, we are asking Round I applicants to send us your updates. Have you received a rejection letter or email? Were you given a reason for the rejection of your project?

Please send us any information you wish to share to: news@prattnetworks.com. We will aggregate the received data and republish it here. StimulatingBroadband.com

FCC Releases Outline of National Broadband Plan

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/19/2010 San Francisco - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday released a 56 page PowerPoint presentation which outlines the "national purposes" of the Commission's pending National Broadband Plan. The final Plan is slated for release on March 17th.

The Plan is a requirement of the Recovery Act of 2009, signed a year ago by President Obama. Under and agreement with the relevant Committees of the U.S. House and Senate, the statutory deadline for issuance of the Plan of February 17, 2010, was extended by 1 month.

Reaction across the American tech sector has been intense and varied over the past 24 hours. We will report on that reaction as we synthesize who is saying what.

In the interim, the presentation of yesterday entitled, "National Broadband Plan: National Purposes Update," is available via our StimulatingBroadband on Scribd site.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Annouces $277 million in Broadband Stimulus Projects

StimulatingBroadband.com 02-19-2010 San Francisco - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Tom Vilsack
on Wednesday, February 17, announced the award of 11 Broadband Stimulus projects totaling $277 million in monies from the federal recovery Act.



The awards were announced at the one year anniversary of the signing, by President Barack obama of the Act, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) administers the Department of Agriculture's portion of the total $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program. The $277 million in government funding will be supplemented with $1.6 million in matching funds provided by the 11 separate applicants.

"The broadband projects we're announcing today will create construction jobs now to build high speed Internet networks in unserved and under-served communities. Deployment of broadband will support job creation and rural economic development," Vilsack (above, with President Obama) said in a press release issued by his office at the USDA..



"The Obama Administration and USDA are bringing broadband to rural America so that Americans can compete in a global 21st Century economy. We are opening new opportunities not only for homes and businesses, but for community institutions such as health facilities, libraries, public buildings and community centers," concluded Secretary Vilsack (D-IA), the former Democratic Governor of Iowa.




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:



Indiana
Smithville Telephone Company, Inc.
This is a Last Mile Non-Remote project, to be funded by a $37,729,143 loan. The funding will provide 3,815 households, 209 businesses, and 12 community anchor institutions with access to broadband service.



Iowa
Southeast Iowa Rural Wireless Broadband
RUS states that this $3,836,926 loan will provide funding for "Internet services to 80 rural communities using proven wireless technology."


Kentucky

Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation
Mountain RTCC received a loan for $39,843,535 and $38,281,044 in grant monies. The Cooperative will extend optical fiber to Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott counties that will result in 20 Mbps bandwidth to end users.


Mountain RTCC will deploy a fiber cable-based broadband network in the counties of Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott. All four counties are considered "distressed" by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and are challenged by mountainous terrain and limited highway and rail infrastructure. MRTCC stated in its application that it will bring broadband access to these counties to enhance economic and educational opportunities for residents and employers.



Louisiana

Allen's Cable - Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Broadband Network Extension: $3,584,680 loan and $3,513,697 grant. The funding will extend fiber into rural areas of three South Louisiana Parishes.



LBH, LLC, - Rural Broadband Powered by Fiber: $16,693,439 loan and $16,691,939 grant. The funding will expand existing broadband into rural areas around Moss Bluff, Oakdale, and Vinton.



Minnesota

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group (SWMBG): $6,350,000 loan and $6,350,250 grant. The funding will provide service to eight rural communities throughout Southwest Minnesota.



SWMBG will extend optical fiber to the Jackson, Lakefield, Windom, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake, and Okabena communities. This funding, along with an $88,000 private investment, will provide high-speed Internet, voice, and cable television to the participating communities. SWMBG stated in its application that federal funding will allow it to improve the quality of life by increasing the availability of health, education, and public safety services across 9 community area.



Missouri

Unionville, Missouri FTTP Project: $5,140,458 loan and $5,140,458 grant. The funding will provide broadband services to households, businesses, and key community organizations that are currently underserved in the Unionville area.



New Mexico

Western New Mexico Telephone Company, Broadband Infrastructure Project: $11,516,679 grant. The funding will provide last mile broadband services to remote and unserved locations and critical community facilities throughout Western New Mexico.



Baca Valley Telephone Company, Inc.: $1,651,000 loan and $1,586,000 grant. The funding will expand fiber optics to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) nodes in rural Northeastern New Mexico, replacing outdated deteriorating copper wire and low bandwidth microwave transport systems in some areas, while providing new connectivity in others, and enabling advanced, high-speed DSL service throughout the area.



Oregon

Sandy Broadband Infrastructure Project: $374,548 loan and $374,537 grant. The funding will provide broadband service to the underserved rural area of Sandy by improving and expanding wireless Internet service.



Texas

Southern Texas Broadband Infrastructure Development and Adoption Project: $40,093,153 loan and $38,520,868 grant. The funding will develop a broadband infrastructure in eleven unserved and underserved rural communities of the South Texas Plains.
StimulatingBroadband.com

Thursday, February 18, 2010

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Announces $357 Million in Broadband Stimulus Grants

StimulatingBroadband.com 02/18/2010 San Francisco - Gary Locke, President Obama's Secretary of Commerce, today announced 10 more broadband stimulus grants totaling $357 million.

The grants were awarded for the 8 states of California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Locke (left, with President Obama) announced four of the grants on the ground today in Pittsburgh, PA, and Wheeling, WV.

“In a globalized 21st century economy, when you don't have regular access to the Internet, you don't have access to all the educational and employment opportunities it provides. Fast, reliable Internet can help keep communities safer, open doors for small businesses and provide job training and skills to more Americans,” said the Secretary.

“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,” Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said.

“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 Strickling.


The following grants were announced today:

California
Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino
$1.2 million public computer center grant with an additional $500,000 applicant-provided match to expand and enhance the services of five computer centers located in public housing developments in San Bernardino County. The centers will add 25 new workstations, increase broadband speeds to 1.5 Mbps at each center, extend operating hours, provide a range of online training workshops, and serve more than 350 additional users per week.

Florida
North Florida Broadband Authority
$30.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $9.2 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed broadband services to underserved areas in 14 North Central Florida counties through the deployment of an 1,200-mile fixed wireless broadband network. The network plans to directly connect more than 300 community anchor institutions, such as public schools, universities, libraries, healthcare facilities, public safety organizations, and government agencies, at speeds of 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

Indiana
Zayo Bandwidth, LLC
$25.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $10.7 million applicant-provided match to directly connect 21 Ivy Tech Community College campuses to the state’s existing high-speed network for education and research, known as the I-Light network. The project plans to deploy a 626-mile fiber-optic network to provide 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps connections between the Ivy Tech campuses and the 42 colleges and universities already on the I-Light network, which will advance research, education, and economic opportunities throughout Indiana.

Louisiana
State Library of Louisiana
$8.8 million public computer center grant with an additional $2.4 million applicant-provided match to distribute more than 760 computer workstations to every library in the state library system, enabling the system at large to serve an additional 42,000 computer users per week. The project expects to establish wireless hotspots and deliver broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps in each location, as well as deploy four mobile computer labs to provide enhanced training opportunities.

New York
New York State Education Department
$9.5 million public computer center grant with an additional $5.4 million applicant-provided match to provide more than 860 computers in 30 libraries and five mobile training centers across 41 economically distressed Upstate New York counties. This grant will allow libraries to extend hours, provide 24/7 access to job search resources, and serve an estimated 50,000 additional users per week system-wide.

Pennsylvania
Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (Map, Application)
$99.7 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $29 million applicant-provided match to create the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN). With nearly 1,700 miles of fiber, the network expects to expand broadband Internet access and directly connect 60 critical community anchor institutions in 39 counties across south and central Pennsylvania. PennREN will enhance healthcare delivery, research, education, workforce development, and public safety by delivering broadband speeds of 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

Pennsylvania
Executive Office of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
$28.8 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $7.2 million applicant-provided match to increase broadband Internet connection speeds for community anchor institutions and underserved areas isolated by difficult, mountainous terrain in northern Pennsylvania. The project will leverage Pennsylvania’s existing microwave public safety communications network by adding a parallel 150 Mbps Ethernet backbone stretching 649 miles across the state, as well as 612 miles of fixed wireless links.

Secretary Locke was joined by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell (D-PA), U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) at an event in Pittsburgh at which the 2 grants slated for the Keystone State were announced. According to a Commerce Department press release, the 2 Pennsylvania middle mile projects will support the delivery of "high-speed Internet access to nearly 3 million Pennsylvania households and some 400,000 businesses."

West Virginia
Executive Office of the State of West Virginia
$126.3 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $33.5 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed Internet access to this vastly underserved region by expanding the state’s existing microwave public safety network and adding about 2,400 miles of fiber. The expanded statewide network expects to offer speeds of up to 45 Mbps and directly connect more than 1,000 anchor institutions, including public safety agencies, public libraries, schools, government offices and other critical community facilities.


West Virginia
Future Generations Graduate School
$4.5 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $1.2 million applicant-provided match to implement a community-based approach to encouraging broadband adoption among low-income and predominantly rural communities across West Virginia. The project will work through volunteer fire and emergency rescue stations, equipping each participating squad with computer workstations that will be available to the public, and setting up training programs. In addition, the project will support a broadband awareness campaign that will include peer-to-peer outreach, newspaper and radio advertisements, signage to promote services, social networking, and a support Web site.

Secretary Locke was joined by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan and Gov. Joe Manchin III at a press event in Wheeling to announce the 2 awards for Wes Virginia.

discuss two investments that will lay 2,400 miles worth of fiber-optic cable, connect more than 1,000 community anchor institutions and equip 60 West Virginia fire and emergency rescue stations with more computers and high-speed Internet.


Wisconsin
State of Wisconsin Department of Administration
$22.9 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $5.7 million applicant-provided match to directly connect 385 libraries, 74 school districts, and eight community colleges (including two tribal colleges) to the existing high-speed BadgerNet Converged Network by deploying 203 miles of new fiber connections. The new connections are expected to provide schools and libraries with enhanced broadband speeds of between 20 Mbps and 100 Mbps, strengthening their ability to benefit underserved communities throughout the state.

Commerce Deputy Secretary Dennis F. Hightower announced the Wisconsin grant in Green Bay, with Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI) and U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI-8), announced a $22.9 million grant to bring faster, more reliable Internet service to 385 libraries and 74 schools districts.

Doyle (left) is one of the nation's Democratic governor's most closely aligned with the Obama Administration, having endorsed the President early on in the 2008 presidential primary season. Doyle announced in August of 2009 that he would not seek at third term in office.
Doyle and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA), another sitting state CEO extremely close to the President and his Administration, worked to coordinate the interests of the states in the stimulus package.

Doyle's efforts paid off in late January when the Badger State was awarded $810 million in stimulus funds for the planned high speed rail connection from Madison to Milwaukee.
StimulatingBroadband.com

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Public Interest Groups Say Broadband Stimulus Needs More Time

NATOA and 13 Others Call for Round II Extension to April 30
StimulatingBroadband.com 02/17/2010
- A coalition of public interest groups closely aligned with the policies and politics of the Obama Administration has called for the current funding window of the federal broadband stimulus program to be extended by 6 weeks.

Funding Round II of the total $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program within the Recovery Act was launched yesterday with the opening of a 30 day application submittal window. The public sector and non-profit groups have asked, in a letter sent on February 12, that the submission deadline, established by federal rules issued January 17, be extended from March 15 to April 30, 2010.

Many applicants, congressional staff, state broadband program chiefs, and trade associations have complained to the agencies about both the tight deadlines of the program. The lack of open or transparent data relative to the application pipeline has also been an issue voiced, most prominently by a wireless trade association in January.

The NATOA sponsored letter, issued February 12, is however the first major expression of dissatisfaction from a significant public coalition of interests directly involved in the broadband stimulus process.

Key to criticism of the program's schedule is the fact that only 17% of the funds allocated to the first funding round of the effort have been awarded to date. Round II applicants thus have little factual information in-hand to make their decisions about "proposed service areas" outlined in their requests for funding.

StimulatingBroadband.com laid out these criticisms, calling on Congress to correct the situation in a Commentary of January 27th.

In the letter released yesterday (below), and addressed to Lawrence Strickling of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Jonathan Adelstein of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the groups stated, "the overlap of pending Round I award announcements and preparations for Round 2 applications is proving to be extremely difficult for applicants."

The group of 14 organizations was assembled by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), the professional association of local telecom regulators and system managers. Joining NATOA in the coalition are groups at the core of the Washington public interest lobby framing much of the Obama telecom policy agenda. Signatories include Ralph Nader's U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Public Knowledge, the Benton Foundation, the Media and Democracy Coalition, and the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation.

Our Take: NATOA's Good Effort Won't Work Without Congress
We love NATOA dearly, what with having been one of the group's first congressional witnesses back when (what we then called) "cable-telco competition" was just a wild idea some of us had. The federal broadband policies of the Obama Administration could not exist without the leadership role played by NATOA and many of its co-signatories on the important letter they issued on February 12.

The letter misses the mark however on 2 points:

1. The letter makes no mention of the role of congressional oversight in fixing the probelm. Administrators Adelstein and Strickling are extremely unlikely by themselves to extend the Round II application window for the necessary and fully reasonable period of 6 weeks requested. NTIA and RUS have been hearing the complaints of state and local officials from around the nation for weeks, and have done nothing but push ahead with an untenable schedule.

Only powerful Members of Congress, sitting on the applicable committees, and who are in the Democratic majority will fully fix the significant problems with the broadband stimulus program. Only Congressmen and Senators will give the pass to the White House necessary to extend the application window, as doing so is likely to move some Round II awards beyond the statutory deadline of September 30th established by the Recovery Act.

2. The letter is silent on the complete lack of transparent data of the broadband stimulus Round I pipeline. Round II applicants, along with the state broadband administrators, and corporate broadband stimulus programs are also correctly demanding data about the awards and rejections from Round I.

In many cases public sector groups, economic development agencies, and states spent well over $100,000 each on grant writing for large middle mile projects, yet have not a clue as to why their funding requests were rejected.

Lsstly, none of us in the national broadband stimulus community know what weight was assigned to incumbent challenges filed against Round I applications. Until and unless NTIA and RUS cease their continued violation of President Obama's directives for open and transparent government process, we will never know if indeed the incumbents are derailing the program. Many of us have pointed to this issue for months, and several prominent industry voices have raised the issue anew.

StimulatingBrodaband.com
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