The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) plans to hand out the first set of broadband rollout grants in the fourth quarter of 2009 and be done by the end of the year, according to a source. It is still targeting June for opening the doors to grants, which means issuing the NOFA (notice of funds availability) and the ground rules for how the grants will be administered.
According to a "milestone" entry on recovery.gov, the government Web site that allow the public to track the progress of their billions of dollars in economic stimulus money, the NTIA has outlined this timetable:
--Procurement for Grants Program Assistance Services March – June 2009
--Award Contract for Grants Program Support June 2009
--Preparation for Initial Solicitation for Proposals April – June 2009
--Publish Notice of Funds Availability June 2009
--Initial Proposal Processing and Review Sept – Dec. 2009
--Initial Grant Awards Made December 2009
--Second Solicitation for Proposals Oct – Dec 2009
--Third Solicitation for Proposals April – June 2010
--All Awards to Be Made September 2010
NTIA has $4.5 billion to hand out in grants for getting broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
A progress report has also been submitted to Congress by NTIA, which was required within 90 days per passage of the economic stimulus package that established the grant program. It outlines the above timetable, but does not provide any any clues to how the money will be handed out. That is the several-billion-dollar question for cable operators and others in line for the grants.
How unserved and underserved are defined, and what open access and interconnection conditions are applied, will help determine how attractive the grants are to the private sector. But those calls won't be mader public until the NOFA in June.
NTIA will award some grants by June 30, but those are grants to entities that will help it administer the grant program.
NTIA's next progress report is due Aug. 17
Separately, the FCC is submitting to Congress, either Thursday or Friday, its plan for getting broadband to rural areas, which it was required to do by the 2008 farm bill within a year of that bill's May 22, 2008 passage.
The FCC also is preparing a plan, due to Congress next February, for getting broadband to everyone in the country.