Program Spreads Broadband Access

The first round of Recovery Act funding — to the tune of $4 billion — will expand broadband access into unserved and underserved areas. What will rural communities gain?

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced on July 1 the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America. The funding is expected to help bridge the technological divide and create jobs building out Internet infrastructure.

The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to accelerate broadband deployment in areas of the country that have been without the high-speed infrastructure. Of that funding, NTIA will utilize $4.7 billion to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the U.S., expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. RUS will invest $2.5 billion to facilitate broadband deployment in rural communities.

"The Department of Agriculture’s Broadband Initiatives Program will bring high-speed Internet service to communities across the country, create thousands of jobs, and improve economic, healthcare, and educational opportunities available in rural communities," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined Biden at the announcement made at Erie, PA’s Seneca High School. "This funding is a down payment on the President’s commitment to bring the educational and economic benefits of the Internet to all communities."

"The Commerce Department’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program will reach the last frontiers of America’s information landscape, and the investments it makes in inner-city neighborhoods and rural communities will spur innovation and pave the way for private capital to follow," added Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "This first wave of funding will help create jobs, jumpstart additional investment, and provide model projects that can better inform our national broadband strategy."

NTIA and RUS will be accepting applications for loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to be awarded by each agency under a single application form. This collaborative approach will ensure that the agencies’ activities are complementary and integrated, make the best use of taxpayer funds and make it easier for applicants to apply for funding. This is the first of three rounds of funding the Agriculture and Commerce Departments will provide.

Vice President Biden added that Commerce and USDA officials will host public workshops in July to share information about the funding availabilities and the application process. Forums will be held in Boston, MA, Charleston, WV; Minneapolis, MN; Memphis, TN; Lonoke, AK.; Birmingham, AL; Billings, MT; Albuquerque, NM; and Los Angeles, CA.

Applications will be accepted beginning July 14, 2009, through 5 p.m. EDT on Aug. 14, 2009. The complete details of this Notice of Funding Availability are available at www.broadbandusa.gov.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, 2009.

More information about efforts regarding the Recovery Act is available at www.usda.gov/recovery, www.commerce.gov/recovery, and www.recovery.gov.
 

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