First dribble of broadband stimulus funding announced

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

The feds today announced they were giving $182.7 million of broadband stimulus money to 18 projects scattered across the U.S. (but nothing so far for California). 18 projects funded out of 2,200 applications, representing less than 3% of the $7.2 billion allocated.

Not much detail but a few worrisome hints.

The infrastructure grants announced today all appear to be for RUS/BIP-type projects. Even the ones that were funded through NTIA/BTOP. That’s consistent with what we heard back in September: a select few RUS projects were fastracked into the second stage of review.

RUS is going down a familiar path – giving money to rural clients. Unlike NTIA, RUS has the staff and experience to do this work, they didn’t have to start from scratch. Even so, it took four months to process a handful of grants.

From the Associated Press:

The administration plans to award a total of $2 billion in grants and loans on a rolling basis over the next 75 days as it starts doling out the first round of stimulus funding for broadband.

Nice, but the first round was supposed to total $4 billion. Are they cutting the first round in half? Dragging it out past the end of February? Or did someone get the number wrong? Let’s hope it’s a typo. $2 billion is about what RUS was supposed to give out. Maybe they’re only referring to NTIA. Or maybe only RUS has its act sufficiently together to get anything done in the next two or three months.

From StimulatingBroadband.com:

NTIA head Lawrence Strickling “yesterday stated that “300 to 400″ project applications for broadband stimulus funding are now being reviewed…in the due diligence phase.”

What’s not clear is whether the other 1,800 or 1,900 applications are still in the queue, or have been rejected. If 1,800 apps are still sitting in someone’s in-box, we’re in for a long wait. If some or all have already been rejected, we need to know.

NTIA and RUS also just posted the comments they received regarding Round 2. It’s a lot of reading.

This process might take a lot longer than anyone ever thought.