Small ops apply for $1.3B of broadband stimulus
The American Cable Association tallied the total value of the grants that 83 of its members have applied for under the national Broadband Stimulus Program: more than $1.3 billion. It might have been more, the ACA said, but its smallest members were frozen out of the process.
Congress allocated $7.2 billion to the program, which is being managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
Of that $7.2 billion, about $4 billion is available for grants. The NTIA said it has received requests for $28 billion in grants.
So the ACA’s announcement was not only just a tally of member requests, but given the competition for grant money, the association also included an argument for why the projects proposed by its members all merit grants.
“With decades of experience serving rural America, ACA members have now proven in their applications why they are ideal candidates to receive broadband stimulus dollars to help advance the goal of providing every American with affordable access to the Internet over state-of-the-art facilities," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said. "ACA urges NTIA and RUS to recognize that ACA members have been reliable providers of advanced communications services in rural areas and represent the best hope of extending broadband into the most economically and technically challenging areas in the country. We encourage the agencies to approve all of our members’ applications."
Among the ACA members to seek funding were: NPG Cable, Wave Broadband, Boycom Cablevision and NewWave Communications. These companies rank among the ACA’s larger members.
That’s because, the ACA says, the rules for applying disqualified its smaller members.
"Although many ACA members applied for grants and loans, the turnout would have been greater if the federal government had not attached funding restrictions that made it more difficult for small cable companies to apply," Polka said. "For instance, ACA members that didn't seek funding noted that the federal government's insistence on holding the first lien would have violated terms and conditions contained in many existing bank loan agreements, making applying for the program impossible. The 10-year prohibition on the sale of federally funded projects was also cited as a deterrent to participation by ACA members. We hope these onerous restrictions will be lifted before applications for the second round are due.”
The NTIA’s general breakdown of requests is as follows:
- More than 260 applications were filed solely with NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), requesting more than $5.4 billion in grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas.
- More than 400 applications were filed solely with RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), requesting nearly $5 billion in grants and loans for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas.
- More than 830 applications were filed with both NTIA’s BTOP and RUS’s BIP, requesting nearly $12.8 billion in infrastructure funding. (Applicants for infrastructure projects in rural areas must apply to BIP but were given the opportunity to jointly apply to BTOP in case RUS declines to fund their application.)
Sustainable Broadband Adoption
- More than 320 applications were filed with NTIA requesting nearly $2.5 billion in grants from BTOP for projects that promote sustainable demand for broadband services, including projects to provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment or support, particularly among vulnerable population groups where broadband technology has traditionally been underutilized. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $250 million available for programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services, of which up to $150 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)
Public Computer Centers
- More than 360 applications were filed with NTIA requesting more than $1.9 billion in grants from BTOP for public computer center projects, which will expand access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that provide the benefits of broadband to the general public or specific vulnerable populations. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $200 million available for expanding public computer center capacity, of which up to $50 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)