NTIA Gives Broadband Bidders Another Extension

Grant money bidders making first cut to be announced no sooner than Sept. 14

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration told Congress this week that it will reveal bidders who have made the first cut in their pursuit of up to $1.6 billion in broadband stimulus grant money "no earlier" than Sept. 14, and has given bidders another extension to file supporting materials.

Those bids are due Thursday (Aug. 20) at 5 p.m. after NTIA last week extended the deadline from Aug. 14. Even the latest deadline has a little more wiggle room.

NTIA announced that while bids are still due Aug. 20, to insure that it gets complete applications and to "minimize problems," it will accept supporting documents in the mail up to a postmark, hand delivery, or "appropriate electronic delivery" date of Aug. 24.

In that third category, NTIA says some users are having trouble uploading documents electronically, and advises trying Firefox as a workaround. NTIA said it is working to fix the problem.

After the Sept. 14 deadline for revealing finalists, the applicants remaining will be vetted by the governors of the state where the project is proposed, with that information factoring into the final decision. Grants will be awarded starting in November. NTIA says that first round of bids will be finished by Dec. 31, 2009. It anticipates three rounds of bidding in all for the $4.7 billion it needs to hand out by September 2010 per congressional instructions--all funds must be awarded by Sept. 30.

NTIA released its quarterly report to Congress Wednesday on the progress of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program of the stimulus package, mostly summarizing widely reported milestones and tweaks, including modifications to the broadband mapping portion of the program, waivers of the "buy American" provision for some equipment suppliers, the move of the bid deadline and the hiring of consultant Booze Allen Hamilton to help with the process.

While all the funds must be handed out by September 2010, there will still be work for NTIA, including yet another Feb. 17 deadline, this one in 2011, when a broadband map must be posted on its Web site, again per congressional instructions.

The date is becoming familiar. Feb. 17, 2009 was the original government deadline for the DTV transition before it was moved to June 12, and Feb. 17, 2010 is the deadline for the FCC to deliver its national broadband rollout plan to Congress.

NTIA won't be done with its part of the BTOP broadband effort until at least September 2014, according to the congressional report, which sets that milepost for "final program audits and shut-down."