Applicants, vendors wait out broadband stimulus delays

OCTOBER 2, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- Applicants of various sizes and stripes -- not to mention the vendors who hope to supply them with equipment -- continue to drum their fingers on their desks as the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) sort through the mountain of grant and loan applications they have received.

OCTOBER 2, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- Applicants of various sizes and stripes -- not to mention the vendors who hope to supply them with equipment -- continue to drum their fingers on their desks as the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) sort through the mountain of grant and loan applications they have received.

Speaking at a track session within the FTTH Conference in Houston, TX, Calix Senior Director of Corporate Marketing Geoff Burke reported that the two organizations appear to be almost a month behind their original schedule. It took the two government organizations until this past Monday, September 28, to release maps that illustrate the census blocks targeted by proposals. Incumbents now have 30 days to challenge whether the areas targeted by the proposals are indeed unserved or underserved -- a time period that was supposed to begin in the middle of September. A due diligence on the applications that make the first cut will then follow. Given where the process now stands, Burke suggested that the November 7 target date for initial awards announcements is in jeopardy.

However, he speculated that the pressure to get the awards ball rolling might lead the two organizations to announce a few grants or loans shortly after the November 7 target date. The rest of the awards announcements should trickle out through late November or early December, he estimated.

Meanwhile, various estimates of the number, type, and targeted value of the applications continue to roll out, based on a proposal database available online from the NTIA. Broadbandtrends.com, in the September 17 issue of its The Voice of Broadband newsletter, estimated that the NTIA and RUS received more than $27.6 billion in grant and loan requests. The table that follows illustrates Broadbandtrends.com’s breakdown of these proposals.

NOFA Round #1 Applications by Project Category
Project # of ApplicantsAmount Requested
Last Mile Infrastructure114 $1,780,901,892
Last Mile Remote Area383$3,790,578,139
Last Mile Non-Remote633$8,681,710,178
Middle Mile Infrastructure368$8,999,138,937
Public Computer Centers361$1,933,979,753
Sustainable Broadband Adoption328$2,474,416,722
TOTALS2,187$27,660,725,621

Burke noted that the number of proposals had been inflated by applicants who had submitted the same proposals to both the BTOP and BIP. The RUS decided to issue only loans through the BIP in this first round; some carriers hoping for grants had to apply to both programs because of eligibility restrictions.

Because Calix provides systems that support both copper- and fiber-based networks, Burke said his company supported the construction of proposals using a variety of technologies. Of the 120 to 130 proposals on which the company assisted, more than 90% were based on optical technology, Burke asserted.

Looking toward the future, Burke noted that the NTIA and RUS plan to open a comment period on the way the first tranche of funding was handled. Speaking during the closing session of the conference, Jessica Zufolo, a deputy administrator within the RUS, said the RFI that will kick off this comment period would appear “in a few weeks.” She also revealed that the NTIA and RUS could combine the remaining two funding tranches into a single round. The notice of funding availability for this round would be published in late December, with awards potentially following in the summer of 2010.

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