MARCH 10, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced today a series of public forums intended to discuss how the two organizations should dole out the $7.2 billion in stimulus money under their discretion. The meetings, to be held this month, will take place in Washington, DC, Las Vegas, NV, and Flagstaff, AZ.
The NTIA and RUS say the meetings will offer the public opportunities to comment on how the NTIA's Broadband Technical Opportunities Program (BTOP) and RUS's complementary efforts should be administered. The events, part of a request for information, also will seek comment on the national broadband roadmap whose creation was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These efforts are expected to feed into the Federal Communications Commission's development of a national broadband plan.
Speaking at today's event, which was also attended by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Department of Commerce Senior Advisor and Acting Chief of Staff Rick Wade, Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael J. Copps said, "Without ubiquitous broadband, our citizens -- our country -- will lack the competitive tools necessary for success in the 21st century. The FCC has been given an important role -- to develop, over the next 12 months, a national broadband strategy. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the agencies of government and in the private sector to bring these essential, opportunity-creating tools to every American, no matter whom they are or where they live."
Four of the six meetings currently scheduled will take place in Washington, DC, on March 16, 19, 23, and 24, respectively. The Department of Commerce will host the meetings at its 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, offices at 10 AM. The Las Vegas meeting will take place March 17, with the Flagstaff gathering scheduled for the next day. The two organizations did not release the time and location of these meetings.
The act awarded $4.7 billion to the NTIA and $2.5 billion to RUS for their respective programs. At the meetings, the two organizations plan to hear comment on a long list of topics:
- the purposes of the BTOP program
- the role of the states
- eligible grant recipients
- the establishment of selection criteria for grant awards
- grant mechanics
- grants for expanding public computer center capacity
- grants for innovative programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service
- broadband mapping
- financial contributions by grant applicants
- timely completion of proposals
- coordination between the BTOP and Department of Agriculture's RUS grant
- how terms set out in the relevant sections of the Recovery Act should be defined
- how the success of the BTOP program should be measured
- any other issues NTIA should consider in creating the BTOP
- the most effective ways Department of Agriculture's RUS could offer
- how Department of Agriculture's RUS and NTIA can best align their Recovery Act activities
- how Department of Agriculture's RUS can evaluate whether a particular level of broadband access and service is needed to facilitate economic development
- how Department of Agriculture's RUS should consider priorities set out in the Recovery Act in selecting applications
- what benchmarks should be used to determine the success of its Recovery Act broadband activities.
A more complete agenda can be found on the NTIA and RUS websites.