The federal government is set for the second round of broadband stimulus funding. Federal agencies pledge that the application process will be much easier this time around.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service said $4.8billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and loans are now available to expand broadband access and adoption.

"In response to lessons learned from the first funding round, RUS is making important changes that will make the process easier for applicants and target our resources toward ‘last-mile’ broadband connections to homes and businesses," said RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein.

In this round of funding, the NTIA intends to focus on so-called middle-mile broadband projects, projects that connect community institutions such as libraries, hospitals, community colleges, universities and public safety institutions.

The RUS will focus largely on last-mile projects, but it said a subsequent funding window will open later that will provide money for additional programs, including supporting satellite service for premises that remain unserved after all other Recovery Act broadband funding is awarded.

The NTIA and the RUS also announced a series of public workshops to review the application process and answer questions from prospective applicants. The workshops will be held in Portland, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; Denver; San Antonio, Texas; Eureka, Mo.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Detroit, Mich.; Blacksburg, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Atlanta. Interested parties can register for the workshops at the program’s Web site.

The agencies plan to accept applications from Feb. 16 until March 15 and will announce all awards by Sept. 30.

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