USDA grants last BIP broadband stimulus awards?

OCTOBER 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Just under the wire, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced what appear to be its final Broadband Investment Program (BIP) awards. Of the four infrastructure awards, one went to a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project.

OCTOBER 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Just under the wire, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced what appear to be its final Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) awards. Of the four infrastructure awards, one went to a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcements yesterday, which was the deadline by which all broadband stimulus awards needed to be made. The Department of Commerce announced its final awards September 27 (see “Final BTOP broadband stimulus awards announced”). The fact that the USDA did not make an official "That's it -- we're done" statement led some observers to wonder whether there may be more awards coming. However, that prospect appears increasingly unlikely as time passes.

The only FTTH award announced Thursday went to The Willard Telephone Co. Willard Telephone received $791,947 that will be matched by $245,510 in private funding to deploy FTTH in the Willard Community, a non-designated community in northeastern Colorado. The FTTH deployment will cover 132 square miles with 93 miles of fiber-optic cable.

The other three infrastructure awards will fund a microwave radio backbone and middle-mile network in Nevada, a DSL network in Arkansas, and a wireless network in northern Mississippi.

In all the USDA leveraged $2.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to provide loans and grants of $3.6 billion via the BIP in two rounds. While fiber dominated the first round (see “Fiber rules first round of RUS BIP”), wireless and DSL networks garnered a comparatively larger share of the available funding in the second round.

Notable among the potential projects not funded was the well-publicized proposal submitted by Qwest for help expanding its DSL footprint.


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